By Jordan Boitnottt
New head football coach Doug Phillips looks to make a positive impact in his first year as the man in charge. Phillips began his path to head coach as a graduate assistant in 1991 and 1992 under Youngstown State President Jim Tressel.
Tressel said he remembers Phillips’ dedication to the team and the sport early on.
“He just started hanging around and all of a sudden decided he wanted to go into coaching. You could just tell he was a worker. Early on, he was just popping popcorn and selling it at the games to make ends meet,” he said. “Just seeing his work ethic when he was young, he did a great job attaching himself with the coaches saying, ‘Hey I want to learn, I want to be good at this.’”
After the New Middletown native finished his role as a graduate assistant at YSU, he held various positions at universities like Bowling Green, Ohio State, Cincinnati and Iowa State. In addition to his college experience, he coached high school football at Springfield Local and Salem, according to YSU Sports.
Tressel said every football program Phillips has been involved with developed a winning culture.
“As a head high school coach, his teams were very successful,” he said. “At Iowa State, they were doing some great things. Cincinnati obviously had some great teams. He was around excellence at Ohio State.”
It’s not a coincidence Phillips’ contributions help his teams do well, Tressel said.
Danny O’Connell, director of support services at YSU and former assistant football coach, said with Phillips’ past coaching experiences and his familiarity with Youngstown, he will bring a new dynamic to the team.
“His experience is exactly what we needed. Doug knows Youngstown State inside and out. He knows the community inside and out,” he said. “More importantly, as a superintendent of schools and a former high school coach and a former teacher, he understands what the parents are looking for, along with what the athletes really need. I thought we needed that type of recruiter for Youngstown State to get things going.”
O’Connell said he likes to “play detective” and ask the players what they think of Phillips.
“Whenever I run into a player, they don’t know who I am. They just know I’m some guy who works at the university. I always ask them, ‘How’s the new football coach?’ and I don’t tell them he’s my buddy. Hearing the players talk, I’m even more convinced that Doug is the person we needed right now.”
Phillips said he is making the best of the situation considering the current circumstances.
“We got to really build relationships with our players. We got to work with them not only academically, but on the football field,” he said. “I’m proud to be Youngstown State’s head football coach no matter what. Even if it’s in a pandemic.”