Saturday, August 14, 2004

Dantonio's manual not usual playbook

By Bill Koch
Enquirer staff writer

Like every other college football team in America, the University of Cincinnati has a playbook that its players are expected to guard with their lives.

But at UC, under first-year coach Mark Dantonio, the Bearcats have been issued another book that doesn't contain a single play diagram and has nothing to do with football strategy.

It's called a "Winner's Manual" and spans 341 pages filled with team policies, schedules and expectations, as well as a section called "Spiritual Thoughts," which includes a listing of area churches and temples, and a 224-page section called "Fundamentals for Winners," which is loaded with motivational quotes, stories and Bible verses about such topics as attitude, discipline, class, humility and love. Dantonio calls it "basically a playbook for life."

"There's no plays in it," he said. "It's just how you act. It's something I've taken from Ohio State and incorporated here at UC. It's as important as our playbook. It's as critical to winning as anything we do, because it talks about leadership and ... the intangibles."

The players aren't required to read the whole thing, and Dantonio said he's not trying to push his religious beliefs on them.

"It's there for them if they want to use it," he said. "It can't hurt."

The book touches on topics ranging from NCAA rules and guidelines about gambling to the preseason camp calendar to rules for dealing with the media.

On the cover, there's Chinese writing that means "selflessness." The back cover shows a pyramid for the season, with the helmet of each UC opponent.

Up front, on Page 3 of the section titled "The Plan," are the three basic goals of the UC program:

I. Graduate all players with a meaningful and useful degree ... and prepare them to be responsible citizens.

II. Win ... Success!

III. Positive impact on our university, alumni, community, state, NCAA football world and the entire world.

"To me, that's why Ohio State has won," Dantonio said. "That's why we won at Youngstown State. Coach (Jim) Tressel was able to harness the human spirit. He was able to take a guy and make him believe in himself.

"It's a privilege to play football. It's a great game, but it can be so much more than a game. We have goals. We ask our players to set goals. We talk in terms of our success in those areas, not just in football."

The players received the book a few days ago.

"It's a good base of where this team needs to go and the direction, some of the philosophies of knowing it's more than football out here," senior guard Kyle Takavitz said.

"It puts in perspective what he's trying to do here," senior running back Richard Hall said. "Whatever you could think of is in that book, from discipline on the field to the war in Iraq. I think it's a compliment to Coach to show how much of a well-rounded coach he is."

Another element Dantonio has borrowed from Tressel is the concept of "quiet time."

Every morning at 7:28, the team goes into a room, opens its manual and talks about that day's topic.

"We'll say, 'Let's talk about what class is,' " Dantonio said. "There's four or five pages there, quotes from people talking about class.

"We just think about it for a minute and then say, 'OK, did anybody get anything out of that?' Somebody will raise their hand or maybe nobody will, and then you say, 'OK, this is what class is.' Over a period of time, you start to think about the way you're doing things."



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