Bobby Wilder said, only partly in jest, that he wanted to renew his contract every day since he arrived at Old Dominion almost five years ago. The architect of the Monarchs' meteoric rise got his wish with a deal that could keep him there another decade.
Wilder and the school announced a 10-year contract extension Monday through 2021, less than 48 hours after the Monarchs concluded a remarkable season with a second-round Football Championship Subdivision playoff loss at Georgia Southern.
ODU athletic director Wood Selig said he wanted to make a "wow statement" about the school's commitment to its coach and program, and Wilder said that he was "honored and humbled" by the new deal.
"I feel like I'm living the dream every day at Old Dominion," Wilder said at Monday's press conference.
Wilder, 47, just completed his third season and cemented the Monarchs' place as the most successful start-up program in FCS history. After being picked 10th of 11 teams in their first year as competing members of the CAA, the Monarchs (10-3) finished tied for second in the conference and earned a playoff berth.
"This contract means you can expect more of the same," Wilder said. "I believe we've laid the foundation for the program."
Wilder's new contract is heavily incentive-laden and includes a bonus pool for the coaching staff. Most notably, it doesn't include a pay raise above his current base package of approximately $250,000 per year.
Performance and attendance incentives could be worth more than $100,000 per year to Wilder, but Selig said that all of the bonus money will come from private donations through the school's athletic fund-raising organization.
"Over the last four years," Selig said, "nobody's gotten any raises around the university, and he didn't want it be a divisive issue, with him signing a new contract, having animosity and ill will around campus because his new contract came with a huge raise."
Wilder and Selig easily agreed on that component of the contract.
"I know that no matter how I say this, it's probably not going to come out right publicly," Wilder began. "But with the economy, with the situation right now with universities and state funding, we were in agreement that this contract needed to be funded elsewhere, if that's the right way to put it. That it's not state dollars."
Contract terms won't be finalized for a couple of weeks, Selig said, though he and Wilder assembled the framework of the new deal quickly and collegially. They did so during ODU's bye week at the end of the season, after the Monarchs defeated William and Mary. Wilder joked that it took them roughly one minute for every year of the contract extension to agree on the basics.
Selig said that he approached Wilder about an extension, and Wilder countered by proposing a 10-year deal.
"I didn't really have to think that long about it," Selig said, "because knowing his character and the type of people that he's recruited and the way he runs the program, I felt like that's probably a pretty good idea. It does make a definitive statement about the level of commitment to both parties."
Said Wilder, "The reason I asked for 10 years was because I want to be here. I know there's a lot of coach-speak and all that stuff about contracts, but I think my track record shows that I get somewhere, I'm happy, and I stay. This is where I want to be. I asked for 10 years. That was more important to me than the money in the contract."
Wilder has coached at three places: Boston College as a graduate assistant; Maine for 17 years under Jack Cosgrove; and ODU, where he was hired February 2007 to resuscitate the program after it disbanded in the 1940s.
Wilder factored family as well as football into his decision to seek a 10-year extension. He and wife Pam have two sons, Derek, a high school freshman, and Drew, a fifth-grader.
"I care more about my family, their future," Wilder said, "than I do about whatever else might have been negotiated in the contract if I had asked for less years. That's the most important thing for me. I'd like for my children to go through the school system in this community and spend their time before they go to college in the same place.
"And I'm going to work as hard as I can to impress those that I report to, that they'll want to keep me here for the length of the contract. That's my goal. I'd like to be here for the length of the contract."
Wilder said that his agent has been contacted about job openings at other schools. The new contract, like the old one, has a $450,000 exit fee should he take another coaching position, but he doesn't sound as if he'll need to pony up.
"I've made it very clear that this is where I want to be," he said. "I want to be at Old Dominion. By agreeing to this 10-year deal and doing it as quickly as we did … it was important to me from that standpoint to make that statement so everybody would see it in the coaching community that this is where I want to be."