Robbie Beathard was all smiles as he sat alongside University of San Diego football teammates in the Jenny Craig Pavilion’s Warren Hospitality Suite on Dec. 29 to celebrate what Ky Snyder, USD’s executive director of athletics, was there to announce.
Snyder introduced USD’s 13th head football coach, Dale Lindsey, a longtime college and National Football League (NFL) assistant coach and the Toreros’ defensive coordinator this past season. Lindsey replaces Ron Caragher, who left last month after six seasons to become San Jose State’s head coach.
“Playing for Coach Lindsey last year, he revitalized our defensive mentality and I think it really helped our defense excel,” said Beathard, a veteran Torero safety who was an All-Pioneer Football League honorable mention and first-team PFL academic honoree in 2012. “I was skeptical at first [about the coaching vacancy], thinking that if we’d brought in someone external, we’d lose that team vibe, the dynamic that we have here now.”
Snyder didn’t disappoint.
“After Coach Caragher informed he me he was leaving USD, the first person I met with was our defensive coordinator, Dale Lindsey,” Snyder said. “His knowledge of the game of football, of our team, of transitions, the respect he commands from both our coaches and players made him the likely person for me to put in charge of our program while we searched for a new head coach. We knew the characteristics that we were looking for: Integrity, belief and promotion of the student-athlete, great knowledge of the game of football, a recruiter who can identify talent that can be nurtured, a coach of coaches and one with connections to build our staff; and, a person who can be creative in moving our program forward. As we spoke to and interviewed many coaches, we kept coming back to the realization that the characteristics and experience that we were looking for, was already on our staff. We could not find someone with more integrity, belief in the student-athlete and knowledge of the game than Dale Lindsey.”
The Toreros football program, co-PFL champions in 2011 and 2012 and three times under Caragher, has enjoyed its share of regular season success. Starting in 2013, though, the PFL champion gains an automatic berth into the FCS playoffs.
“I’m excited because this is a real chance to be in the playoffs,” Beathard said. “With the players who are returning, this could be one of the best teams USD’s ever had. With the mentality that we have, too, I see us going pretty far. I think Coach Lindsey is the guy to help us get there.”
Lindsey is a head coach for the first time, but his coaching experience spans more than 30 years. He came back to USD in 2012 — he was linebackers coach in 2008 — after a three-year run at New Mexico State as assistant head coach and linebackers coach (2009-11). His NFL coaching resume includes stints with San Diego, Chicago, New England, Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Washington. Lindsey played nine seasons in the NFL, all as a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns (1965-73).
Having worked under many head coaches, one trait Lindsey will employ is the importance of a positive environment.
“The biggest thing is how a head coach treats the coaches and players,” Lindsey said. “When the head coach shows you that they care about us as a family, it makes a big difference in how people respond to you. Nothing else, not playbooks, watching film, any of that counts more than the coaches and the players knowing I care about them.”
Lindsey also cares about continuing the success that USD gained through Snyder’s two previous hires, Caragher and current San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. To Lindsey, the success established before him is one of three components to woo recruits to USD.
“It’s about academics, being part of a winning tradition where you’re playing against competition that’s better than most realize and an opportunity to be in the playoffs,” he said.
One bonus for Lindsey’s promotion, Beathard said, is the chance for all of his teammates to hear “one-liners” and “great stories.”
“He’s definitely been around the world and he’s seen and done a lot of things,” Beathard said. “Coach Lindsay played at Western Kentucky and he’d tell us about all of the things they did there that make us feel like pampered athletes here.”
Lindsey’s vast experience appeared again after the press conference when he reflected on a 1967 conversation he had that remains good advice for the 2013 Toreros.
“You can’t play this game if you don’t have fun,” recalled Lindsey of the observation of Browns teammate, tight end Johnny Brewer, after a loss to Detroit. “This game is hard enough when everything’s going right and it’s Hell when it isn’t right.”
Lindsey has been given the keys to the USD football program. He’s eager to recruit, to get his coaching staff set and tackle the organizational/administrative aspects of his new job. He knows there are some challenges ahead and believes he has a championship-caliber team. He’s ready to have some fun.
“I’ve been at both ends of the spectrum,” he said, revisiting the Brewer story. “and I like it when everything’s going right.”
— Ryan T. Blystone
Photos of Dale Lindsey on USD website homepage and USD NewsCenter courtesy of Brock Scott (scottphoto.net)