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UMass AD Bamford excited about detail-oriented new football coach Bell

  • Walt Bell, front right, who has been hired as the new UMass football head coach, enters a press conference with his wife, Maria, and Athletic Director Ryan Bamford, left, Wednesday, at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center at UMass. Below, Bamford presents Bell with a jersey. STAFF PHOTOS/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Walt Bell, who has been hired as the new UMass football head coach, speaks during a press conference, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center at UMass. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Athletic Director Ryan Bamford introduces Walt Bell as the new football head coach during a press conference, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center at UMass. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Walt Bell, left, who has been hired as the new UMass football head coach, receives a jersey from Ryan Bamford, the athletic director, during a press conference, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center at UMass. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Newly hired UMass football head coach Walt Bell, right, shakes hands with Ryan Bamford, the athletic director, during a press conference, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center at UMass. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Walt Bell, who has been hired as the new UMass football head coach, speaks during a press conference, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center at UMass. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS



Staff Writer
Thursday, December 06, 2018

AMHERST — Before he became UMass athletic director, Ryan Bamford heard the name Walt Bell.

Bamford was the senior associate director of athletics at Georgia Tech when he became aware of how impressive a 30-year-old offensive coordinator was doing in his first year at Arkansas State. From there Bamford followed Bell’s career progression from afar and kept tabs on someone who he felt was an up-and-coming young coach.

Four years later, Bamford and Bell were seated next to each other at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center where Bamford introduced Bell as the 30th football coach in UMass history Wednesday.

“Walt won the job,” Bamford said. “He just came in and he had me convinced the first time I started talking to him.

“That was arguably one of the best conversations I’ve had with a coaching candidate as an AD,” Bamford added. “It really led me to believe in him.”

Bell will be paid $625,000 annually over the term of his five-year contract, which also includes a retention bonus that will be paid after each of the first four years on July 1. As part of the agreement, UMass will be increasing its salary pool for Bell’s 10 assistant coaches and two strength coaches from roughly $1.2 million to $1.5 million, with the extra money coming from the athletic department’s revenue and not student fees or the school’s general operating budget.

Bamford said what stood out about Bell during the recruiting process was his preparation and the thought he put into devising a strategy for the UMass program.

“He had the absolute best plan of attack for us,” Bamford said. “He was one of the only people that came in and said I don’t care that we’re independent, I’ve looked at your schedule, I’ve looked at your roster, I looked at where you get kids from.’ He had it broken down by ratio of so and so is from here and we’re getting so much percentage from ... all these different areas. The fact he said within a six-hour radius of this place, we need to recruit and it needs to be a good portion of our talent base.

“Those things and the opportunity for him to come in and establish a plan and tell me what that plan was ... that was what won it.”

Bell, who was dressed in a maroon suit for his introductory press conference, has had chances to be a college head coach before, but turned down two previous opportunities at the FBS level. He said what made UMass the correct fit for him is the positive direction the school has taken in the last decade as applications have increased and the university has gained more prestige nationally.

“Everybody else here is having success,” Bell said. “For whatever reason, and I’m sure I’ll learn about it over the next two or three years, there’s great momentum and great energy here. Rising tides elevate all ships and hopefully I can be a part of it and we can get some rub from it and get better ourself.”

While simultaneously hitting the recruiting trail for the Minutemen, Bell also needs to put together a staff around him. He said he has people in mind for the positions but declined to name anyone specifically.

Bell said he wants to find assistants who will help him in establishing his culture at UMass and preach a united message to the team.

“The most important thing about building a staff is finding guys who can do exactly what we talked about earlier and build a culture,” Bell said. “People that are like-minded, aggressive, can recruit and most importantly live the values that I talk about. I want to make sure that we’re very deliberate and we make sure that we have the right staff.”

It’s the same procedure he has for this first year of recruiting. He said he isn’t concerned about how many players ink with the Minutemen in two weeks when the early signing period opens, but how many UMass can pick up by the time the regular signing period begins in early February.

In the meantime, Bell said he had a meeting scheduled with the team at 6 p.m. Wednesday for what will be his first time addressing his players. He said he would spend most of his speaking portion talking about the culture and expectations he wants to set for the program in his first year.

Although he admitted many of his goals might not be reasonable, he said he could promise fans his teams would play with relentless energy in 2019.

“That’s one thing people are going to see here when they watch us play,” Bell said. “We are going to play offensively, defensively and on special teams with fanatical effort. What does fanatical mean in the dictionary? It means on the edge of out of control, and that’s how we’re going to play. We’ll play the kids who want to play that way.”


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