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Cougars’ first-year head coach returns home

Matt Lozar | Thursday, September 4, 2003

To put it simply, this weekend is a dream come true for Washington State first-year head coach Bill Doba.

Like every other kid who grew up under the shadow of the Golden Dome, the South Bend native’s favorite football team was Notre Dame. Saturday afternoon, he’ll see the team he cheered for while growing up from the opposite sideline, something even Doba never imagined would take place even when falling asleep many years ago.

“It will be a thrill, I would by lying if I didn’t say that, being born and raised there. So much of my family was Notre Dame fans and I was to as a kid,” Doba said. “My mom got out the rosary about kickoff time and prayed those beads until the game was over for the Fighting Irish.

“It is something neat to get to go back there and I never thought it my wildest dreams it would ever happen.”

Doba, who still considers South Bend his hometown, went to high school in New Carlisle, Ind. and received a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Ball State. He coached high school football in Indiana from 1962-76. Doba held a variety of assistant coaching positions at Indiana from 1977-82 and at Purdue from 1983-86.

Doba became a member of the Mishawaka Hall of Fame in 1986 and was recently inducted into the Indiana football Hall of Fame in 2001 after coaching football in the state where basketball rules, for 25 years.

“I used to go watch practice. I can remember watching Ara [Parseghian] and Dan Devine’s practices as a high school coach,” Doba said. “They were a great staff and very hospitable to let us watch spring ball.”

When Doba joined former Washington State coach Mike Price’s staff in 1989, he coached the linebackers. Two years later, Doba earned the title of assistant head coach and in 1994, he became the Cougars’ defensive coordinator.

When Price left Pullman, Wash. for Alabama last December, Doba finally moved up to what has become, one of the top jobs in the Pac-10.

“It’s one of the good stories as far as the coaching ranks go for a long time veteran to finally get his chance to right his own ship,” Notre Dame offensive line coach John McDonell said.

McDonell is one of three current coaches on the Notre Dame staff to spend part of their coaching career at Washington State. Running backs coach Buzz Preston was in Pullman, Wash. from 1994-97 and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill Diedrick held the same posts with the Cougars from 1989-90.

Having spent 12 seasons at Washington State coaching the offensive line, McDonell developed a relationship with Doba that still persists throughout the offseason.

“It was a good relationship. He’s a great man. He’s a great coach and a good friend. He still is a good friend,” McDonnell said. “We talk once every couple months and get caught up and those kind of things.”

Besides the connection to three coaches, Doba will have numerous family members in the stands this weekend. He has a son traveling from Indianapolis and daughters coming in from Evansville, Ind. and North Carolina. Overall, Doba will have five grandchildren cheering him.

During his time in South Bend throughout the summer, Doba spent time with some old friends who gave him encouragement for his first year as head coach. Last weekend, he made his family and friends proud leading Washington State to a 25-0 victory over Idaho in his first game as a collegiate head coach.

Doba’s friends cheered from his last week and for the rest of the season-except for three hours Saturday afternoon.

“I hope they are rooting for their old buddy,” Doba said. “I had a lot of people back there telling me good luck, except for one game.”