Tomey happy with SJSU’s progress
The former UH coach would like to see his Spartans finish strong like the 1977 'Bows
SAN JOSE, Calif. » Between visits with players, Dick Tomey ushers a visitor from Hawaii into his office with a smile and a pat on the back. Before the guest can ask where to sit, on one of the two deep couches, or in the matching black chair in front of Tomey's desk, the San Jose State football coach says, "I want to show you something."
Dick Tomey: The SJSU coach forged a 63-46-3 record as the head of the UH program
It is high behind Tomey's desk, in a partially-occluded position, a place above eye level that isn't prominent, but a spot where you can see it if you're looking for it.
It is a group picture of the 1977 University of Hawaii football team, the first college team of which Tomey was head coach.
The visitor and Tomey start reeling off names.
"Double-E Price," Tomey counters. "Our first long-snapper, and a good one."
"No, Tom Tuinei. Mark was still in high school."
"Tom Murphy, Pat Schmidt, Jeff Duva. Transfers from four-year schools, an infusion of experienced talent."
The Rainbows won five games in Tomey's first season, after only three the previous campaign. A rebuilding process that peaked with 8-3 and 9-2 ledgers in 1979 and 1980 and ended with Tomey coaching UH to a 63-46-3 record in 10 seasons.
That job is going to take longer at San Jose State, but Tomey, 67, who has the most wins as a coach at Hawaii and Arizona, is convinced it can be done.
The Spartans host Hawaii (2-4, 2-2 Western Athletic Conference) on Saturday. They are 1-5 and haven't won since the season opener six weeks ago against Eastern Washington.
Tomey said it is unfair to compare his first Hawaii team with his first San Jose State squad (we won't even get into Arizona, a Pac-10 school where the year-to-year talent level was noticeably higher than the other two programs Tomey has led).
All rebuilding projects are not the same.
"This team, I started with in January. At UH, it was not until two-a-days," Tomey said. "But we were able to bring in two starters right away, and some other players who helped us. At Hawaii, transfers were immediately eligible because it was not in Division I-A yet. That's not the case here."
Tomey says this simply as a statement of fact. He's not whining, he's just answering a question.
"We're disappointed, but certainly not discouraged," Tomey says of his current situation. "Our team is so far from that."
The trend for the Spartans is to fall behind early, get back in the game, but lose anyway.
It happened against Nevada and Boise State in recent games.
There are some good omens out there for Tomey this week. For one, the '77 Rainbows didn't exactly get out to a great start, either. They were 2-4 after their first six games. In the seventh game, homecoming, as it is for the Spartans this week, UH beat Portland State 21-12. Quarterback June Jones had left for the NFL, but Mouse Davis (now a Warriors assistant) was still head coach. The next week, the Rainbows lost 24-14 -- at San Jose State -- before winning two of their last three. The season-ending loss was to Arizona.
In 1983, Tomey hired Jones to mentor the Hawaii quarterbacks. It was Jones' first coaching job. He helped Raphel Cherry develop into one of the best multiple-threat quarterbacks in the country.
"He contributed a lot," Tomey says of Jones.
In addition to all the historical connections, the current Spartans coaching staff is loaded with Hawaii ties.
Offensive coordinator Ken Margerum was on Fred vonAppen's staff in 1996. Defensive line coach Joe Seumalo is a former Radford and UH player, and he was a graduate assistant at UH during Jones' first two seasons as head coach (1999-2000). Co-defensive coordinator Tom Williams served two years on vonAppen's staff. Wide receivers coach Brent Brennan was a graduate assistant at Hawaii in 1998 and is cousin to Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan.
Tomey is in a much different position than the last time he took a team into a game against Hawaii. In 1998, his Arizona Wildcats beat vonAppen's Rainbows 27-6. It was the start of UH's 0-12 season, and Arizona ended up going 12-1, including a Holiday Bowl win. Two years later, Tomey left the program with a 95-64-4 record; some say he was on the verge of being forced out for not delivering a Rose Bowl berth.
Margerum had already left UH to become head coach at Division III Menlo by the time UH played Arizona. The member of the Chicago Bears Super Bowl XX championship team and former Hawaii Prep coach said he enjoys Tomey not just for his experience, but also his personality.
"He's a very warm person and enjoyable to be around," Margerum says. "I've learned so much from him about how to handle players. He treats people with respect and not intimidation."
That trait will help Tomey as he re-opens his recruiting line to Hawaii, where he still spends much of the year. He's already beginning to get to know a new generation of island prep coaches.
"I talked to a couple the other day," he says. "There's a lot I'm very acquainted with."
As for this season, Tomey hasn't given up on it. He didn't in 1977 after a bad start.
"I don't think we've played our best game," he says. "We're becoming more and more tenacious."