NEW BRITAIN - After a 5-1 start to the season and an appearance in the FCS Top 25 for the first time since 2006, Central Connecticut State officially took the interim label off head coach Ryan McCarthy on Thursday afternoon.
The introductory press conference was a formal way to introduce McCarthy as the full-time head football coach of the Blue Devils, but in a way, Thursday’s events were more of a formality.
To many around the school, McCarthy has been the head coach since he was named as Pete Rossomando’s interim replacement back in January.
“Ryan McCarthy has been my head coach since day one,” director of athletics Brian Barrio said. “I never looked at him as a coach that was going to only be here for a year…Within about six hours of our previous coach leaving, we had Ryan named as our head coach. If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about how we view him as a leader, I don’t know what will.”
It may have taken eight months and one of the most successful starts in program history to shed McCarthy of the interim title, but it was always a necessary delaying of the inevitable, which came to a completion earlier this week when Barrio and university president Dr. Zulma Toro announced the news to the team before practice.
“Sometimes things go a little more slowly than we want them to,” Barrio said. “There are processes and state regulations. In order to have a coach in place for our recruiting period, this is how we had to do it. It took a lot of patience from Ryan and he handled that interim period with a level of grace and class that I just want to thank him for. I know that’s not easy. There are a lot of people that would have used that interim tag as a crutch and he didn’t do that for one second.”
After he was officially introduced as the school’s 14th head coach, McCarthy shared the mindset he carried through his interim tenure, which boiled down to the thought that there was no interim tag.
“My mindset was that I was the head football coach,” McCarthy said. “I never looked at it any other way. I honestly don’t know what interim means. You’re either the head football coach or you’re not. That’s how I approached it and I never once thought about if I didn’t get the job.”
Apparently, neither did Barrio or Toro. Many could look at the timing of the decision, just days after CCSU came in at No. 25 in the nation, and assume it was a reward for the team’s fast start, which is just one successful punt away from a perfect 6-0 record. But to Barrio, the decision transcended football.
“If you look at this decision and evaluate it based on what’s happening on Saturdays, you’re probably missing 75 percent of what’s going on here,” Barrio said. “This is a man with a relentless work ethic, with infectious positivity and impeccable integrity. That’s why he’s here today. It doesn’t have to do with football…he’s the kind of leader we want to be around and the kind of leader I would want my sons to play for.”
Perhaps the decision came immediately after McCarthy was named the interim head coach after Rossomando left for Rutgers, when members in the Blue Devils’ locker room, including transfer quarterback Aaron Winchester, clamored for an internal replacement, and have clearly responded with high spirits to the decision to promote McCarthy.
“I thought I might have to find another school, but Mr. Barrio said they were going to make coach McCarthy the head coach, and that solidified my decision even more,” Winchester said. “It’s something he deserves.”
McCarthy never treated his interim stint as an audition or an opportunity to prove his worth. If he thought of it that way, he said would have lost sight of the next down or the next quarter of play. By mentally removing the interim label, he succeeded in having it physically removed, while bringing plenty of success to the program he now officially leads.
“My philosophy is always that I’m going to work for the job I have, not for the job I want,” McCarthy said. “If you take it one day at a time and take that approach, everything takes care of itself.”
According to the minds behind Thursday’s decision, McCarthy had the job all along. The national recognition was only a solidification of a decision that was already made.
“That record has not happened by chance,” Toro said. “It’s happened because of the leadership and dedication of the person we’re introducing this afternoon as our new coach.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org