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Molnar comes aboard

Coach will lead UMass into FBS

Former Notre Dame assistant Charley Molnar wants to build a pass-oriented offense and attack-style defense at UMass. Former Notre Dame assistant Charley Molnar wants to build a pass-oriented offense and attack-style defense at UMass. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)
By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / December 9, 2011
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FOXBOROUGH - In making an ambitious transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision as a member of the Mid-American Conference, the University of Massachusetts turned to a man with an equal amount of ambition as its next coach.

The challenge of building a championship-caliber program is daunting, but Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charley Molnar embraced the opportunity when he was introduced yesterday as the Minutemen’s 29th coach during a press conference at Gillette Stadium, where UMass will play five home games each of the next two seasons.

“Why did I choose UMass to be the place where I’m going to put the rest of my professional reputation and my career [at stake] - why did I choose to come here?’’ asked Molnar.

“UMass has a vision to be greater than what it is today. I wanted to be involved in a program from the ground up. Some people like to be caretakers of college football programs; I’ve always envisioned myself to be a builder.

“I’m joining [UMass] at a time during this transition where everybody is pulling and pushing in the same direction, and I want to be part of that.’’

Molnar, 50, a native of Morristown, N.J., and a 1984 Lock Haven graduate, spent the last seven seasons as an offensive assistant and offensive coordinator under Brian Kelly at Central Michigan (2006), Cincinnati (2007-09), and Notre Dame (2010-11). This is his first head coaching job.

He agreed to a five-year contract that will pay him an annual base salary of $250,000 in addition to incentives and bonuses. He takes over a program that went 5-6 last season under Kevin Morris, who was dismissed Nov. 21.

Molnar reached out to UMass athletic director John McCutcheon to express his interest in the position.

After meeting with McCutcheon for two hours last Friday in Pittsburgh, where he was on a recruiting trip for Notre Dame, Molnar vaulted to the top of McCutcheon’s short list.

“It was a thing that built momentum,’’ McCutcheon said. “When we first got the name - obviously, with the name of Notre Dame attached to it, you take another look.

“The more people we talked to and the more we found out about him, the more positive the picture became, and it culminated when we got together in person and the energy and all those things really came out in person.’’

Molnar’s infectious energy seemed to make as much of an impression as his extensive 28-year coaching résumé, which included stints at MAC schools Kent State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, and Central Michigan.

“That was a big piece of it,’’ McCutcheon said. “But, really, if I had to give you one thing, it was his desire to be a part of a program like this - that he could put his name and his fingerprints on, as he said.

“The other [candidates], they had more questions, and you could sense maybe some apprehension. With him everything was, ‘We can do that. We can do this. We’ll do this to deal with that issue, and if we have something we can’t deal with, we’ll find a way around it.’

“It was that positive [energy] because we know we’re going to take some lumps in this transition, because everybody has. But to be able to maintain that positive attitude and focus was really unique.’’

Molnar will have to rely on that energy to help him get through the month. He will juggle his duties with the Fighting Irish, whom he intends to coach in the Champs Sports Bowl Dec. 29 against Florida State, with his UMass responsibilities.

Molnar said he hopes to assemble a staff, launch a recruiting campaign, and install a pass-oriented offense and attack-style defense, all in the hopes of building a program modeled after Boise State, which has become a perennial BCS bowl contender in the last decade.

“They’re giving me the resources to get this thing off the ground and get it running,’’ Molnar said. “I’ve made a commitment to UMass that I’m going to make a winner here. It may not happen overnight, but it’s going to happen.

“We’re going to work hard, we’re going to work together, and we’re going to have a winning football program here at the University of Massachusetts.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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