WARWICK – If everything shakes out according to Thorr Bjorn’s plan, the University of Rhode Island will have a new football head coach in place by the middle of the month.
Speaking about the ongoing search to find Joe Trainer’s successor at a college basketball luncheon held at the Radisson Hotel, Bjorn stated that the official job posting in accordance with state requirements took place Monday. The Rams' athletic director noted that such a step must take place before interviewing prospective candidates.
“We haven’t formally interviewed anybody at this point, but we’ve certainly been proactive with the folks we’ve talked to just to gauge a sense of interest,” Bjorn stated. “We’re moving forward quickly. We can’t set a deadline, but if we can have someone named by mid-December, I think I’ll feel pretty good about it.
“We want to find the right person rather than rushing to just fill the spot,” he continued. “I’ve just been thrilled with the level of interest from a number of really successful coaches.”
The quest of seeking out what will be the 20th football coach in Rhody history is being conduced without aid from a search firm. Bjorn said that a small, on-campus committee is in place, yet it has not yet officially met. All the homework that has been done up until this point is the result of Bjorn putting out feelers, a step that he says was done during the search process that led to the eventual hiring of Dan Hurley as the URI men’s basketball head coach.
In conversing with outsiders, Bjorn came away impressed with the “can-do” perception surrounding his grid program, one that posted a 12-44 record in Trainer’s five seasons at the helm.
“What I’ve been trying to do internally is look at some of the challenges we bring to the table from an administrative support standpoint and an administrative non-coaching side of the house. What are some of the things we need to do differently? What can we do across the board to put ourselves in a position to be competitive?” Bjorn said. “People think we can be successful here, but when you’re not successful, it’s not just a coach’s problem. It’s a program issue.”
All of Trainer’s assistant coaches remain at Rhode Island in compliance with their contract obligations, which are set to expire at the end of the month. Trainer himself has been back on campus to conduct exit interviews with players.
“Joe and I have talked numerous times over the last two weeks. He wants nothing more than the program to be successful, so he’s been giving me some good insight as far as some things we need to work on from my end,” Bjorn said. “You want to be open to that type of information.”
Asked if those dealings with his ex-football coach have provided a sense of what the next step will entail for the 45-year-old Trainer, Bjorn responded, “He hasn’t said anything. I think obviously he wants to stay in coaching and I think he’s a good coach. He’s just looking forward to the next fit that makes sense for him and his family.”
In terms of the Rhody players, Bjorn has already gathered them for two team meetings since Trainer’s firing.
“They have an understanding of the timeline; right now, they know their focus needs to be on academics and training,” said the athletic director. “Everyone starts from scratch when a new coaching staff comes in, so the players need to realize that when they come in, you want to be thought of at a certain level. You want your name to be on the ‘A’ list, not on the ‘B’ list. That’s based on taking care of business in all the important areas. ”
The Rams finished the 2013 season on Saturday, Nov. 16 with official word coming two days later that Trainer had been relieved of his duties with one year remaining on his contract. To that end, Bjorn stated that the decision to cut ties was not an impulse one.
“You do think about things over the last few weeks. You always hear these clichés from ADs that ‘It’s an ongoing evaluation’ and ‘We’re going to evaluate at the end of the year.’ You’re really doing your evaluation all year long,” Bjorn expressed. “It wasn’t like it was a rash decision. It was something that Joe and I talked about (the day before Trainer and URI officially parted ways) and talked a little bit more the following day. It just felt like it was the right time.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03