September 17, 2004

A New Face

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Friday, Jan. 30 marked the birth of a new era in Cornell football. At least that”s the way that Jim Knowles “87 sees things. The former first-team All-Ivy defensive lineman and long-time college assistant was hired for his first head coaching job that day, and ever since, things in his life have simply not been the same.

That”s not to say becoming the seventh Roger J. Weiss “61 Head Coach of Football has been easy.

Knowles inherited a program that was at a low point in its history, but Knowles, ever the optimist, was not about to let recent events cloud his plans for the future.

‘My first meeting with the team, I said “Cornell football is flat on its stomach like a snake. But we”re going to rise up, like a cobra about to strike,”‘ he said.

And so his work has begun. With the season set to open tomorrow, Knowles will look to what he has learned from his 20 years in the game, drawing from everyone he”s worked with along the way.

‘My first college head coach was Maxie Baughan. [He] was as good as anybody I”ve ever been around at keeping the end in mind,’ Knowles said.

Jim Hofher “78 succeeded Baughan with the Red, and gave Knowles his first full-time coaching job.

‘He was as professional and as prepared a guy as I”ve ever been around,’ Knowles recalled. ‘He had all the scenarios down, had all the pieces in place.’

After nine years as a Cornell assistant, Knowles moved on, putting in stints at Western Michigan and Mississippi, and his football education continued.

‘Put them all together, we”re all hybrids of people we”ve been around. Whenever we”re around people, we all rub off. So I”m going to be a guy who doesn”t sweat the small stuff like Maxie, and always keeps the end in mind,’ Knowles explained.

‘I”ll be prepared like Hofher for all the scenarios, always upbeat and motivational like [Western Michigan head coach] Gary Darnell. I send our players an e-mail everyday with a motivational quote on it.

‘And I”ll try to be steady like [Mississippi”s Dave] Cutcliff, not ever let anything deter you from your course.’

‘And I have my own innovations and ideas that I”ll bring to the game,’ he added.

One of the things Knowles has brought to the team is a brand-new mission and theme for the season: ‘Cornell Football is in the business of creating champions.’

‘We want guys to leave here with a great experience, feeling good about themselves that no matter what they choose to do, they can succeed in life,’ Knowles said.

‘Be a champion in all areas of their life, whether its with their family, with their marriage. ‘That they can overcome adversity, that they can have fun doing difficult things, be tough, take real pride in what they do. We believe that no man is an island, and that together, we can all accomplish things that we could never even dream of for ourselves.’

Archived article by Owen Bochner
Sun Sports Editor