Howard Herman: Whipple coming back to UMass?


Thomas Wolfe was wrong. Apparently, you can go home again. At least you can in college football.

Bobby Petrino did it last week when he returned to Louisville as its head coach. It appears that the same thing will be happening just up the road as Mark Whipple is reportedly going to return to the University of Massachusetts as its head football coach.

If the sides can agree on a contract, expect there to be much rejoicing in Amherst and among the long-time UMass football fans.

Whipple can be quite the turnaround artist. The Minutemen were 2-9 in 1997, but turned it around in 1998 with a national championship season. UMass, winners of 12 games, beat Georgia Southern for the title. This current crop of Minutemen were 2-22 under Charley Molnar, so the turnaround artist would have his work cut out for him.

I remember wanting to write about Whipple in this space and when an interview time was set up, the UMass sports information staff asked if 7:30 a.m. was good.

If Mark Whipple can do interviews before I've had my first cup of coffee, I wrote that UMass would win that I-AA title.

Now Petrino's first act at Louisville was pretty stellar. He was 41-9 from 2003-06, won a Big East title and beat Wake Forest in the 2007 Orange Bowl, a BCS game.

Since then, the peripatetic Petrino has had three different coaching jobs and has fallen off his motorcycle.

But when Charlie Strong moved to Texas, the powers that be decided that Petrino, who left Louisville to coach the Atlanta Falcons for one year, had deserved another opportunity.

That's obviously what UMass athletic director John McCutcheon must be thinking if Whipple signs on the dotted line.

Like Petrino, Whipple left Amherst of his own accord. Like Petrino, Whipple left UMass for the National Football League as he joined the Pittsburgh Steelers as quarterbacks coach under Bill Cowher in 2004.

Unlike Petrino, Whipple's wanderings have not been his fault. He left Pittsburgh after Cowher resigned and Mike Tomlin brought in his own coaching staff. Whipple was the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at the University of Miami, but was not retained when Al Golden came aboard. The same thing happened when Whipple was named quarterbacks coach of the Cleveland Browns.

The hiring of Whipple will mend fences with the Division I-AA players and fan base at UMass, who were put off by Molnar, who, I've been told, did little to connect with UMass' past.

Granted, the present and the future is far different for the Minutemen than it was playing New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Delaware. We are, however, as much about our past as we are about our future. It was a past that if Molnar had to do over again, might have meant more to him.

So if the two sides can agree to a contract, we can welcome back Mark Whipple to the UMass fold. We can also thumb our noses at Thomas Wolfe.

To reach Howard Herman:,
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman


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