Rice assistant coach Billy Lynch operates on emotion

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

Only one college football coach in America this season was issued a chin strap with his headset.

But Billy Lynch vetoed the gift that came during a video presentation.

An excitable assistant with the Rice Owls, Lynch has a habit of yanking off his headset in the heat of battle.

Not a good thing for a coach in the pressbox, entrusted with sending information to the sidelines.

“I didn’t even realize I was taking them off,” said Lynch, who is bound to be tempted to rip them off several times Saturday when the co-offensive coordinator puts his unit on display against Notre Dame.

“I love being up there (in the pressbox) because you can look at the game and take the emotion out of it,” said Lynch, who obviously struggles with that or he wouldn’t have been asked to buckle up. “I get (the emotion) throughout the week. Once you get to Saturday, it’s time for the kids to go out and do their job. Your job is Sunday through Friday to get them prepared to the very best of their ability.”

The 35-year-old Lynch has known that excitement all his life.

His father, Bill Lynch, is a football lifer who is currently in his second stint as the head coach at DePauw University. He has had other head coaching stops at Butler (1985-89), Ball State (1995-2002) and Indiana (2007-10).

Billy, who was a two-sport athlete (football and basketball), played for Bill at Ball State, graduating in 2002. Billy and Bill were assistants together at IU, then when head coach Terry Hoeppner passed away, Bill was elevated to the top spot.

“Anybody that coaches their son at any level knows that it’s very rewarding, enjoyable; but then again it’s very difficult,” Bill said. “When we were assistants together, that was really fun. When ‘Hep’ passed away and I became head coach, the relationship changed. Those years were special.”

“I never sensed it as having any pressure,” said Billy, who was a receiver in college. “It was more of a privilege. I did tell him on one occasion, ‘I wish I could have been Tim Tebow and done a little better for him.’ It was just my genes, I guess.”

Which, ultimately, wasn’t his fault.

Bill actually has three sons in the coaching profession. Joey is the offensive coordinator at Ball State and Kevin is the receivers coach at the University of Indianapolis.

“My mom was 0-for-3,” Billy said. “She tried really hard to get at least one of us to do something different, but she couldn’t.”

Billy, whose primary focus is the Rice receivers, along with the big-picture view of a co-coordinator, is charged with amping up the productivity of the Owls’ passing game.

Last year, while rolling to a 10-4 record and the Conference USA title (7-1), Rice rushed for 227 yards a game (17th in the nation), but threw for just 178 (103rd).

Having Driphus Jackson take over at quarterback for the graduated Taylor McHargue could help the situation.

“(Jackson) is very cerebral, in terms of getting us in the right play and reading the defense,” Billy said. “He’s more of a ‘scramble to throw’ guy, where Taylor was more of a ‘scramble to run’ guy.

“You really don’t focus (on improving the passing numbers). The biggest thing you try to do, I know it sounds cliché, is to try to get better every day. There are some things we did well, that we want to build on. There are things we didn’t do as well that we want to improve on.

“Accentuate your positives, get better on your weaknesses, and continue to improve each day.”

Add 6-foot-5 receiver Jordan Taylor and running back Jowan Davis and Rice will have some potent weapons for the Irish to handle.

Facing a quality team like Notre Dame in the opener is a challenge. Trying to figure out the new scheme of Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder complicates the test.

“Any time you’re playing an opener, there’s a lot of unknown,” Billy said. “You better make sure you do what you do well, and not beat yourself.

“It makes it more difficult when you’re dealing with a coaching change. They’re putting in a new defense. They’re putting their own stamp on it; how they want to do things. You don’t have the film to know what will be coming at you.”

More important than the defense the Owls will be facing, Billy is confident in the knowledge of the athletes who he will be sending into battle.

It’s a lesson he learned early in life.

“That age-old thing: (The players) really don’t care what you know until they know that you care,” is what Bill has preached as Lesson No. 1 for his sons. “It’s always been that way. A lot of new technology may have changed the way things have gone in football, but (that) core principle hasn’t changed.”

That’s the Gospel according to Lynch.

Right before the directions on how to buckle up a chinstrap.

On a helmet or headset.

Rice assistant football coach Billy Lynch likely will get a little excited during Saturday's season opener against Notre Dame. (Photo provided)