Clark, RMU Ready to Begin New Era

Colonials travel to Dayton for first game under new coach

Josh Rowntree
August 29, 2018 - 3:24 pm
Robert Morris football coach Bernard Clark in a 2018 practice

Robert Morris University

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Bernard Clark sits in his office, overlooking a stadium named for a coach who won more games than anyone in the history of the Northeast Conference, and talks about changing a culture. 

Robert Morris’ new head football coach is as determined and strong-willed as they come. Clark is a former Miami Hurricane middle linebacker and a 1988 Orange Bowl MVP, who spent just two seasons in the NFL before diving into ten different assistant coaching stops before landing in Moon Township. 

“The transition is still going on,” Clark said. “It hasn’t been a situation where I think it’s going to stop anytime soon, because of the newness of it all. You don’t know what to expect going into the first game.”

The Colonials went 2-9 last season, leading to the dismissal of John Banaszak and the hiring of Clark, a former defensive coordinator at Albany, as the new head coach. Banaszak was tasked with replacing a legend in Joe Walton, who won 114 games in 20 years. But the last four seasons produced just eight victories.

“We’re still dealing with a very vulnerable team, who hasn’t had a winning season since 2010,” Clark added. “So you’re not exactly sure what to expect.”

During camp, players put their last names on the backs of their jerseys and detailed, aloud, what that name means to them. It was an exercise to get everyone more familiar with one another, including Clark. 

“We’re trying to get to know them as people more than anything else,” he said. “Because in order to change a culture, you have to be able to do those things.

“I’m not asking guys to be the same. I’m just asking them to be one. We’re all different people from different backgrounds, different entities. But, at the same time, we have to come together and be one in order to be victorious.” 

At Clark’s introductory press conference in December, he outlined the way he expects players to behave, including his strict policy on not having cell phones at team meetings. He also has prohibited players from using the N-word, regardless of race. 

Stating a policy in front of cameras and reporters is one thing. Getting 18-22-year-olds to buy into the new rules is another. 

“It’s not really my concern on how it’s received, to be honest with you,” Clark said. “It’s something that we’re going to do. We’re going to stay the course. 

“If we’re going to be a 2-9 team or a 1-10 team, we’re going to be the most disciplined, hard-working team. That’s the thing our guys have to come to learn more than anything else.”

Clark’s message is one that goes beyond football. He wants to win, of course. But character development is a task he takes seriously. 

“That’s going to help our young men, as I always say, become better men, better husbands and better fathers,” he said. “Those are probably the three most important things. 

“Hopefully we’re going to win some games, we’re going to compete more than anything else. But the thing that’s most important is that these guys understand that discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm.”

Robert Morris and Clark face their first test Saturday when it travels to Dayton, a team it beat a year ago, 13-10. But Clark is not sure what to expect in this game or in this season, for that matter.

“I have no idea, to be honest with you,” he said. “We’re up against a situation where we had a good Spring, we had a good camp, but we’ve still got to see how they’re going respond to the field and what’s going on.”

Hear all of Josh Rowntree’s interview with Bernard Clark below.