In light of our good ole buddy Mark Whipple being named the new (old) coach at UMass, I'm bringing this goldmine out of my archives. I tracked down a couple former players who played for Whipple his first go round at UMass, specifically when he won a 1-AA title in 1998. I even found a funny quick hitter from a UMass football blog that linked both articles (links are no longer working). Below is the original interview, verbatim.
Remember Canes fans, it's easy to want the shiny new toy, especially at the coordinator position. Whipple was replacing one of the worst OCs in the history of cfb. And he looked great for about two weeks in September. So maybe you don't really want to dump Dorito, hmmmm? Just kidding. Send that dumpster fire back to the nearest Frito-Lay production line for incineration.
Looking back, a little sloppy on my part, but just tracking this guy down was solid investigative work. And the last question and answer will always be hilarious. Enjoy.
Todd Bankhead interview on Mark Whipple
When one comes, they all start rolling in-
Our second interview with a former Coach Whipple player today is with his D-1AA national title winning QB, Todd Bankhead. Bankhead came to UMass the same year as Coach Whipple (1998), from Palomar Junior College in San Marcos, CA. And just like our previous interviewee Jason Peebler, Bankhead set all kinds of passing records while at UMass. Lets do this!
Todd, being a Miami Hurricane fan, and having to endure two years of Patrick Nix led offensive play calling, I’m sure you can imagine our excitement level right now with this Mark Whipple hire. You both came in to UMass in 1998. How did he help change the team offensive dynamic? I realize you were coming from a JUCO, but how did other players on the team react to his style?
TB: Hey Anton, I’m happy to answer your questions about Coach Whipple, I still keep in touch with him and just recently saw him at our 1998 National Championship reunion back in October. I think you guys will like what he brings to the table.
Before Whip and I got to UMass they were 2-9 the previous year. They were running the option which is night and day compared to what Whip likes to do. I don’t think it was quite the same situation with the Canes because of the winning tradition and expectations there, but at UMass the players immediately bought into what Whip was trying to do because we were hungry. I think it is quite remarkable what he was able to accomplish offensively because he was bringing in a whole new system with players who were accustomed to something totally different. One of the cool things that I think personifies his style and system was that he was ultra confident more towards being brash about establishing what he wanted to do and how he was going to do it (what I mean by that is he told us from the start we were going to be potent and hard to stop and kind of instilled that into us).
The stats for your Junior and Senior seasons speak for themselves. You broke all kinds of school records in passing. What kind of scheme does Whipple run? We Miami fans really have nothing to look at in terms of his style of play calling.
TB: I can only imagine that since coaching in the NFL he has become all the more innovative, but in terms of what he was doing at UMass, he was wide open. That isn’t to say he just wanted to air it out every game, because we had a great running back who played in the NFL for 7 years (Marcel Shipp), but he was innovative in that he knew how to expose other teams and how to utilize mismatches. As far as a scheme goes, we ran everything from off-set I formations to 5 wide empty sets (Yes!). It was definitely more of a pro scheme and not all this spread option Vince Young stuff you see. (However, if he had a Vince Young he would definitely utilize those talents and work that stuff in). I think what you guys will like is that he is not predictable, and he is kind of fearless when it comes to play calling. The only difference is he is not the head coach and he might be reigned in a little bit, but we went for it on 4th a lot and he was willing to take chances like throwing out of the end zone when most coaches would try to pound it and give themselves some space. One thing is for sure, you wouldn’t classify Whipple as being conservative. Definitely fun to play for and fun to watch. The thing I liked most about his offense, it wasn’t overly complicated for the players to pick up (his plays weren’t a paragraph long with hundreds of variables for each player to read on the fly), but it was very tough for defenses to defend against.
What kind of coach is Whipple? Players coach? Disciplinarian? Does he demand a lot?
TB: That is a tough question to answer because at UMass he was as fiery as they come. I’m sure coaching in the NFL is a lot different because you can’t really get into guys like he did, because that probably wouldn’t work. As the Head Coach/OC, he would light into me like nobody’s business, but would also coach me and congratulate me for doing something good. I’d say we had a great relationship but he was not hesitant to unleash his wrath when I or someone else screwed up. He also knew who he could do that with and who wouldn’t respond to that type of coaching. I’m very interested to see how he is at Miami because they are college kids but are also high profile recruits who have egos. He will know how to manage whatever situation he is in because he knows how to deal with people. You need to get a microphone on that guy because he says some funny stuff when he goes off. I don’t think you get that impression from interviews and stuff like that, but as a coach, he is as fiery as they come.
I see you had some experience in the professional ranks after UMass. Can you give us a brief rundown? And also, how did Whipple prepare you for the next level, especially being a QB?
TB: After college I ended up in the CFL and Arena League for 4 years. I would say Whip helped me tremendously with being able to recognize things and take advantage of mismatches. He definitely instills toughness in his players and expects a lot from them, which gets you prepared for just about anything.
For all my UMass readers, what are you up to right now? How is life treating you? Was it hard giving up the game?
TB: Right now I’m a Police Officer in San Diego. I work for an agency that is different from most because we do a lot of different stuff from traditional agencies. For instance, I’m a scuba-diver and do a lot of work on the water with boats as well as marine firefighting, along with traditional police work in a patrol car. After playing football, I thought I would get into coaching but I was sick of the job instability thing and tried some of the 9 to 5 jobs, but didn’t care much for that. I never thought I would be a cop but I love it and have a blast. Life is great, I’m married and have a 10 month old boy who hopefully takes after his mother (she was a college volleyball player who is much more athletic than me).
Last question. Here is the situation: 4th and 3, on the opponent’s 40 yard line, up by 2 points, 2:00 minutes to go, opponent has 1 time out left. Conference title on the line. What would you guys do?
TB: Honestly, we were in that type of situation plenty of times. I would have to say Coach Whip would want to put it away and go for it kinda like Pete Carroll does it at SC. In 1998, we were huge underdogs early in the year to the #5 D1-AA team that year. It was the 4th quarter and we were down by 1 or 2 points. We drove inside their 20 with about 8 seconds left and called timeout. All we had to do was play it conservative and we would have a good shot at winning on a field goal. On the previous play I completed a ball for a 6 or 7 yard gain and Whip saw something that I didn’t and wanted me to throw it in the end zone to a different receiver. When I came to the sideline he Mother F’d me like you’ve never heard....just going off. When he settled down, he called a play and told me if we got a certain look the backside receiver would be open on a post route. We go out after the timeout and line up to run the play and the defense calls a timeout. During the timeout, Whip walks out on the field and starts screaming at their defense, "Give us a f****** look" as if they were a scout team defense or something. I was like, this dude is crazy. I’ll tell you what, it got our guys jacked up and probably dumbfounded their team’s defense. On the next play, sure enough, we got the look we wanted and we hit the backside receiver for a touchdown to win the game. It was awesome and really I think it propelled us that year to go on and win the National Championship.
I think you guys will really love Coach Whipple. He is as good of a coach as there is out there.
Ok Canes fans. That officially does it. I have to go buy some extra kleenex because I just made an excitement pee in my pants. And I believe we can also officially start a new calling card, a new catch phrase....."GIVE US A FUCKING LOOK!"
Post script: Yeah, didn't work out quite as I had hoped. But damn is the line from that anecdote money.