Not a coach/counselor, fundraiser, goodwill ambassador, protector, motivator,

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Not a coach/counselor, fundraiser, goodwill ambassador, protector, motivator, healer or schedule-maker.

These and various other off-field roles and tasks soaked up an immense amount of precious time during Pees' first three seasons as the fearless leader of Kent State's stuck-in-a-rut football program, a period of time that he admits tested his fortitude to the absolute fullest.

"Preparing gameplans and drawing up Xs and Os used to be something I'd try to cram in around everything else that popped up during the week," said Pees. "It was frustrating for everyone. In my case, I just wanted to coach football. I was tired of beating myself up trying to invent new ways to convince our kids that they were good when we kept losing every week. It's something I never thought I'd have to deal with so much when I took the job, and I can't tell you how tough it was.

"But now things around here are very different."

Yes indeed, at long last, Pees is enjoying the fruits of his many labors.

His surprising Golden Flashes (4-4) will carry a three-game winning streak into Saturday's 3 p.m. home battle with four-time defending Mid-American Conference champion Marshall (6-1), the most pivotal college football game Dix Stadium has hosted in November since ... well, who knows when?

"Now I feel like I'm coaching a team, not coaxing a team," said Pees. "I'm coaching players instead of trying to keep them up. Now we know how to prepare, we believe in ourselves, I can make decisions during games that I couldn't make before because I have confidence in our players on both sides of the ball.

"We're a football team now. By no means are we a great football team, but we are a football team."

Technically the Flashes are a .500 club, which gives Pees a better record than six of his coaching counterparts in the MAC. That achievement is particularly satisfying to Pees, who won just three games in his first three years as a head coach and admitted after a particularly discouraging 51-0 loss at Iowa in Kent State's 2001 season opener that he was "almost embarrassed to shake the other coach's hand" after games.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for the other coaches in this league, but you also want people to respect you," said Pees. "You keep hearing that you're doing things the right way and that everything will work out, but at some point you need to win games. People say coaches ignore (records), but you don't."

As the victories pile up, so does Pees' credibility. His Flashes have already recorded more triumphs in 2001 than in the last three years combined, and will have an opportunity to reach five wins for the first time since 1988 by upsetting the mighty Thundering Herd Saturday.

"We're going to have a lot of fun preparing for this game, because we have nothing to lose," said Pees. "I just hope our fans are as excited about playing Marshall as we are. We're on a three-game winning streak and playing the best team in the MAC. This is what college football's all about."

Real college football, that is.

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E-mail: amoff@recordpub.net

Phone: (330) 678-5460

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