Ken Collums, as a former University of Central Arkansas player remembers the feeling.
Now, as the head coach for Abilene Christian, he’ll have to guide his players through the process.
In 1993, Collums, who quarterbacked one of the top teams in the NAIA and helped lead the Bears to a national title in 1991, faced a season in which there would be no postseason because UCA was making the transition from the NAIA to NCAA II and the Gulf South Conference.
This season, as coach of Abilene Christian, he’ll start to lead the Wildcats, a perennial DII power, through another transition with no postseason on the horizon. They’ll begin their first full season in the NCAA Division I FCS Southland Conference.
“Not going to the playoffs (because of the transition period) is a frustrating deal, and I have some insight from a player’s perspective,” he said during Southland Conference Media Day. “But insight totally changes, like everything else, when you are in the head coach’s chair.”
He’s trying to use it as a teaching moment.
“Our players didn’t ask for this situation, but you get things in life you don’t ask for,” he said. “It’s a bad deal. But what do you do? Stop and complain or make the best of the situation?
“I’ve signed guys who have a passion for playing football,” Collums added. “I want players who will play with that passion regardless of the game and regardless of whether we can go to the playoffs. Ultimately, it is a great opportunity for our school to establish who we are and our culture.
“ ... Abilene Christian has been playing good football for a long time. I don’t know how it will play out, but I do know we will show up and play with a lot of heart.”
Abilene Christian is about to construct a $75 million stadium complex and Collums reports that the university’s supporters are highly enthused about the challenge at a new level.
“The future is bright,” he said. “I can’t wait for you guys to learn about ACU. Whatever we do, we do with a purpose. Our place is different. We value relationships so much — in everything we build and everything we do. That’s what defines us.”
As a former assistant at UCA under Clint Conque, Collums realizes the challenges ahead in the SLC.
“There are good coaches in this league,” he said. “And nobody wants to be outcoached.”
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)