AKRON, Ohio — Gerry Faust is looking for a few good, young men--20 of them in all--who can help carry the University of Akron's football program into the big time over the next four years.
"We hope we can find some people out there who are Division I football players who want to play early and want to play a lot," Faust said in an interview as he prepared for the start of a whirlwind recruiting session.
The 50-year-old Faust, who built his reputation as founder and coach of Cincinnati Moeller High School's highly successful program, took over at Akron last month after spending five seasons as head football coach at Notre Dame.
His record with the Fighting Irish, 30-26-1, was far from good enough to satisfy Notre Dame fans, and Faust admits he felt a great deal of pressure in the job.
"We had some adversity, but I think they were years of growth," Faust said. "There were some tough times, but I think everybody, no matter what job they have, has tough times. The last five years have really been good years for us, because it really brought our family together."
Faust again found controversy waiting for him when he arrived at Akron, a Division I-AA school planning to move to the NCAA's big-school Division I-A for the 1987 season.
Criticisms arose because he had replaced Jim Dennison, who was coming off an 8-3 season and who somewhat reluctantly accepted a job as Akron's associate athletic director to make room for Faust.
The university was blasted by football coaches like Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler and Ohio State's Earle Bruce for gambling on Faust's fame at Dennison's expense.
"The important thing is that Jim and I have a real good understanding," Faust said. "There's a lot more to it than has been said publicly, and I'm just not going to say anything. I'm in the middle and it doesn't do any good to perpetuate things like that. I don't think Bo and Earle know the whole story. They're entitled to their opinions and if they want to spend time talking about things, that's their business."
Faust prefers to put that sort of ugliness behind him, and has, because the change in jobs put him five weeks behind in his recruiting program. He's put off unpacking his office belongings because he's spent nearly all his time studying films of his players and prospects.
"We've got five coaches who are going to recruit this area (northeast Ohio), and eight coaches in Ohio altogether," he said. "We'll look at all of Pennsylvania, the Indianapolis area, the Detroit area, the Chicago area and Florida, because we've got inroads in all those areas.
Faust has 20 scholarships to give out this year, but he knows the late recruiting start has probably cost him some players who might have otherwise considered Akron.
"Some of the kids we're talking to already have five visits (with other schools)," he said.
The university hired Faust to enhance the chances of moving up in class and to help fill the 35,000-seat Rubber Bowl, which has often been half-empty despite Dennison's recent successes.
Faust thinks both goals are within reach, and he cautiously dreams of building Akron into a national power.
"I don't think we can look that far ahead. But we'd sure like to be in that situation," he said. "Eventually, down the line, I would like to play a good schedule, teams like Pitt, Penn State, a couple of those schools. But we're not ready for that yet. We're three or four years from that."
This season, the Zips will play in the Division I-AA Ohio Valley Conference and will have just two games against Division I-A schools: Kent State and Eastern Michigan.
Athletic Director Dave Adams is working on adding four or five more Division I-A schools to the schedule for 1987 so Akron will meet the NCAA's requirements for a major football school.
Faust concedes that the move from Notre Dame to Akron was perceived by outsiders as a large step backward for his career, but he insists such observations don't bother him.
"I don't really care about that," he said. "I'm not in it to be judged on whether I'm in a great place or whatever they think. I'm in it because I like to work with young people.
"There are about 20 top jobs in the country that are about all equal, and Notre Dame is in those top 20. The other jobs, I guess, if you ranked them, are below that, but I think if a guy's in coaching, he's in it because he likes to work with young people, and I think the big thing for a coach is whether he has a chance to win or not."
The Akron job is Faust's first in a non-Catholic setting, and Faust is openly devoted to his religion. But he says he does not think his ideals will seem out of place at his new school.
"You don't preach. You try to set an example," he said. "I don't think you can force any philosophy or any principles on anybody, no matter if you're in a private or a public place, because it just doesn't work with people this age."
The "leading-by-example" approach probably was more effective at Moeller than it has been in college, Faust said.
"I think you can probably reach them a little better on the high school level, because your example can be impressive and can penetrate, whereas at the college level most of them have had their philosophies pretty well developed," he said. "But influence like that is good on any level, even the pro level. If you're positive and you try to maintain ethics, you can be an example in anything you do in life."