Wanna have some fun? Ask Vinny Marino—offensive coordinator of the Bryant University football team—to name every place he’s worked as a coach. In order.
Seriously, it’s a wondrously dizzying endeavor, not unlike asking a Baskin Robbins clerk to list the week’s 31 flavors. Since graduating from the University of Connecticut in 1992, Marino has been employed a ton of schools, from Boston College and Davidson to Georgetown and, beginning in 2017, Bryant.
What inspires him … what drives him—is love. Love for the players, love for his fellow coaches. Love for the smell of the field, the sound of pads hitting pads, the sight of a perfect spiral soaring through the air. Where will Vinny be in five years? Who the hell knows. The NFL? Alabama? Bryant? Such is the life of the assistant college coach—a wayward-yet-cherished gig that Vinny wouldn’t trade for gold.
Anyhow, I actually bumped into Vinny via Twitter, and a short-lived DM argument turned into a lovely dialogue. He’s a good guy, and someone genuinely worth rooting (and playing) for. You can learn more about him here, and follow him on Twitter here.
Vinny Marino—welcome to the Super Bowl of Q&As. You’ve been Quazed …
JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Vinny, so you’re the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Bryant College—as well as the former Boston College recruiting coordinator. And I wanna start with this: What is recruiting in the age of social media? I mean, you and I grew up with a coach calling, then visiting. How has it changed? And is it better? Worse?
VINNY MARINO: Social media has certainly influenced recruiting in a big way, some positive and some not so positive. Calling is still a very big part of recruiting. Talking to a prospect is still so important and valuable for a coach to get to know a prospect and vice versa. Getting recruits on campus now earlier in the process is a bigger deal than years ago. It’s a great way to show recruits and families the campus and program earlier in the process. The whole recruiting process has been sped up with technology—i.e. emailing and video systems. Social media has allowed coaches to contact players via twitter mostly and move the process along faster. Recruits usually will have a HUDL highlight video on their Twitter page so it is much easier to see them on video.
All of this has helped the process move along faster and easier for sure. Schools have “recruiting” departments dealing with just social media so that will tell you how big of a part social media has become. It lets schools customize their graphics to appeal to the recruits, which kids today think is really cool. It’s hip. Social media has made in impact because most recruits will share their plans, when before it was kind of kept quiet. Most recruits want to get on Twitter and share their recruiting. It promotes a ME culture—which can make it harder for sure. Recruits put out on social media when they get offered a scholarship, offered a visit (official/unofficial) or were on a certain campus. Most kids want the limelight and people to know what is going on in the recruiting process. They want views. That certainly can make the recruiting process more challenging for sure.
J.P.: So you’ve coached at a loooong list of schools. Bryant, BC, Columbia, Georgetown, Davidson, UCnonn, Rhode Island, Richmond, Holy Cross, Western Carolina and Bowdoin. I think I’ve got them all. And I’ve gotta say—it seems like a hard life, in regards to settling down, feeling comfortable, feeling at home. So … is it? And what keeps you going?
V.M.: It is certainly a hard life. It can make having a relationship tougher for sure. A coach’s wife/girlfriend certainly has to understand it’s your passion and they have to be bought in. You definitely have to have support. There are certainly a lot of highs and lows in coaching and it helps to be able to share them with someone. I love coaching and it would be really hard for me to do something else. I have a passion for it and that is what keeps me going. I have always had the philosophy that you better love getting up in the morning and doing what you do. If not, you will not be happy. You have to be happy first before you can make someone else happy.
J.P.: Besides your time at BC and UConn, all your schools have either been I-AA (as I still call it) or lower. And I wonder—is the difference in talent obvious? Like, if you’re standing on the sideline of a BC practice vs., say, a Bryant practice, what are the noted disparities? Speed? Size? Is it visible to the average eye?
V.M.: There is definitely a difference between FBS and FCS (1-AA). There are a lot of great FCS players who probably could play on an FBS team for sure. Recruiting is not an exact science so players will “slip” through the cracks. It happens all the time. Also, some FCS players develop later and have very high ceilings, therefore,they have great FCS careers. I really believe a big difference between an FBS and FCS program is the numbers (in most cases). There tend to be more players who can play and provide more depth in the FBS programs than in FCS programs. FBS teams have a better chance of having their second team being closer to their first team. It really is about depth. You have 85 full scholarships for FBS vs. 63 scholarships (they can be broken up).
That being said, the talent difference in certainly noticeable. The players usually are bigger, stronger and faster. But not in all cases. More players in the NFL will come from FBS programs than FCS programs. I think the combination of size, speed and strength is noticeable. A lot of FCS players have one or two of those qualities as opposed to all three.
J.P.: I know you graduated from UConn with a degree in economics, then got your master’s in physical education from Western Carolina. But—how did this happen for you? When did you develop your love for football? When did you know this would be your path?
V.M.: I have always loved football ever since I was a little boy watching my uncle coach our high school team for so long. I loved his passion and how he demanded excellence from his players. It stood out to me at a young age. I then went to UConn and was a backup quarterback and holder. I had great coaches who treated me so well and made my experience a great one. This was another major factor in me getting into coaching. I went to UConn thinking I was going to be a lawyer and after my first semester, I wanted to be a college football coach. The rest is history, as they say.
J.P.: I don’t want my son playing tackle football. I just think, knowing what we know, the physical risks aren’t worth it. Tell me why I’m wrong.
V.M.: I certainly can understand parents hesitancy or flat out resistance to letting their sons play football. I really believe football is the greatest sport and greatest team sport to be played. The characteristics that are brought out playing such a team sport and such a demanding sport are off the charts. Sports in general teach great life lessons for sure, but football takes in to the next level as far as pushing through adversity, sacrifice and teamwork. The sheer number of how many players there are make it different. Players in most cases have to beat out a bunch of guys to win a job. The camaraderie of a football team is really amazing. I say that a football team is the biggest fraternity on campus. You are brothers and usually have each others back in most cases. Players in most cases overlook a lot of things for their brothers. I love that part of it.
On the concussion side of the issue, the game is still a contact sport but it has been made safer and will continue to be made safer. Teaching to make the game safer has gotten so much better. That, to me, is such an important piece. How you teach tackling and hitting is so important and that has gotten so much better. I really believe the positives outweigh the negatives. The negatives are big, no doubt. But the joy of playing the game and with who you play it with is such a great experience.
J.P.: You and I DMed briefly about Delaware and Tubby Raymond. When I was there, the offense was the Wing T—and it was effective and beautiful. Yet now almost no one uses it on the college level. You’re an offensive coordinator. Why?
V.M.: That is a great question. I am not an expert by any stretch of this subject. I don’t have a Wing T background. It certainly can be a very effective offense, as has been proven on the high school and college levels. My guess is there is a “sexy” factor to it. There is not a big dropback pass component to it, with a lot of big plays down the field. That is “sexy.” People like to watch football games and see points being scored and big, exciting plays taking place. That is my opinion. It’s a very good question.
J.P.: When you were at Columbia you coached Craig Hormann, the quarterback who signed with the Browns. So what made Craig an NFL prospect? Like, what were the things that separated him from your average Ivy QB? And did you think he was NFL material?
V.M.: Craig Hormann had an NFL arm and he had NFL size. He was also a very intelligent young man who had a really good feel and understanding of the game. Those are qualities that NFL teams like in QBs. It was really a shame when he hurt his knee in the winter of his junior year. He was progressing nicely and had a very high ceiling. He just missed too much practice time and training because of the injury, and that hurt his development to a degree. His arm strength was tremendous. He could make all of the throws. In the Ivy League that is impressive. That’s not easy to do.
J.P.: What does it feel like to be on the staff of a really awful team? Like, what was your worst season, W and L-wise, and how did you endure? What do the weeks feel like? Is it hard staying up?
V.M.: Being on a really bad team stinks. That being said, I have been on some teams with bad records but we weren’t that bad. We lost some heartbreaking games or we played really well against teams who were just flat-out better than us. As long as the kids worked hard and prepared hard for each game, it was easy to stay up because the players actually weren’t giving up. It’s when the kids stop practicing hard and preparing that gets you down and frustrates you. I have been on a 1-9 team a 2-8 team. The 1-9 team was my last year at Columbia in 2011. I actually thought the kids kept hanging in there and playing hard. We beat Brown the last game of the season in overtime. I was frustrated because we were crushed with injuries but not bad attitudes. We kept fighting. One of the 2-8 teams was a team that was tough to be around. They stopped playing and preparing. It stunk. So not fun. We had taken over a mess and years two and three are usually where the warts show and it did. Tough time.
J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?
V.M.: The greatest moment was winning the Motor City Bowl vs Toledo when I was at UConn in 2004. First bowl game and bowl win for UConn. What a great night, although I was sick as a dog.
The lowest was probably in 2003 when I was at UConn and we went 9-3 and weren’t selected for a bowl game. I was so disappointed. We were such a good team. I felt so bad for the seniors.
J.P.: You’re approaching your 50s, and I wonder—does it get harder to relate with athletes? Do you have to try and stay up to do with things? I dunno—Meek Mill and Fifth Harmony and the new iPhone? Or is it just … football?
V.M.: I’m pretty hip and cool. LOL. It is a little different but I am a people person so I think I relate pretty well with them. Ultimately, players want to know you are making them better and if you are that stuff takes care of itself. I do enough stuff and say enough things for them to know I am not too old. LOL It definitely is important, though, to relate to players outside of football. Players better know you care about them. That’s for sure.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH VINNY MARINO:
• Delaware has a running back named Thomas Jefferson. What are the coolest athlete names you’ve ever been around?: My good friend and teammate at UConn (and we coached together at UConn as well) is named Lyndon Johnson. Pretty cool. That is probably the best one.
• Rank in order (favorite to least): Stephon Marbury, Coppin State University, Crayola Crayons, waffle fries, Sheena Easton, Frita Batidos, Desmond Howard, strawberry milk, Halle Berry, “Shakespeare in Love.”: Waffle fries, strawberry milk, Halle Berry, Sheena Easton, Desmond Howard, Stephon Marbury, Crayola Crayons, Coppin St, Frita Batidos, “Shakespeare in Love.”
• Which is better—the Michigan helmet or the Ohio State helmet?: Michigan
• The world needs to know—what was it like coaching Muneer Monroe?: Coaching Muneer Moore was awesome. Such a hard worker, attentive, easy to coach. Wanted to get better every day. He had zero ego. He just wanted to learn and play. One of my all-time favorites I have ever coached. He is such a great person.
• Five reasons one should make Smithfield, R.I. his/her next vacation destination: 1. Bryant University; 2. Nice summer weather; 3. Blackie’s tavern; 4. J’s Deli; 5. Bryant University has a great campus with great people
• Biggest accomplishment as a football player at UConn?: As the holder I had a really good hold off a bad snap on the game winning field goal vs Villanova in 1990.
• Can I borrow $22.18?: No you can’t. I hate change.
• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I was actually taking a flight out of New York to Tampa recruiting for Columbia when we had smoke on the plane and had to make an emergency landing in Newark. Thought we were going down and I was going to die. Really scary. Still a little jumpy on flights.
• Who wins in a cherry pit spitting contest between you and Cher?: Me. I am not a Cher fan so somehow I will not let her beat me.
• In exactly 21 words, can you make an argument for Chad Pennington: Greatest Quarterback to Have Ever Walked the Earth?: There is NO way possible I could do that even if you said I have 121 words to use. And I liked him. Thought he was a really good quarterback.