|Contributed Photo. Gino Guidugli, a 2001 Highlands graduate and former record-setting University of Cincinnati Bearcat quarterback, is in his first year as Running Backs Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at Central Michigan University.|
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
The calls still come in for him to play quarterback, particularly from the arena football leagues.
But for now, Gino Guidugli is content to help bring the NCAA Division I Central Michigan Chippewas back to the top of the Mid-American Conference. Guidugli is in his first season as the Running Backs Coach and Recruiting Coordinator in Mount Pleasant.
“I’m so proud of (Guidugli),” said Dale Mueller, Highlands Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator. “He just always loved football. He really had a coach’s mind when he was a player. I was really pleased when he became a football coach.”
Guidugli returned to Central Michigan after serving as Offensive Graduate Assistant there between 2009 and 2011. Guidugli earned his Master’s Degree in Sport Administration from CMU in 2012 after earning his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Cincinnati in 2005.
Central Michigan Head Coach Dan Enos helped Guidugli get into coaching. Enos served as the Quarterbacks coach during Guidugli’s senior year at UC in 2004. Enos spent two years at UC before spending another three as an assistant at Michigan State before taking the CMU job in 2009.
“I don’t know if it was because I was more mature my senior season,” Guidugli said. “I felt like I learned the most (from Enos). He prepared me each week for games. I just looked up to him for that. I needed something more of a career path once football was over. So I called Coach Enos just to keep my foot in the door to be a college football coach. He said he was in the second interview at Central Michigan and if he got the job, he’d like me to come help him. So I followed it (in 2009). The next thing I know, he gets the job. He was using the same (Pro-Style) offense I ran at Cincinnati. He offered me a position in March of this year. I felt like it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Guidugli set several UC passing records. Guidugli recently made the UC Hall of Fame after an amazing four years between 2001 and 2004. He still holds school records with 1,556 attempts, 880 completions, 11,453 passing yards, 78 touchdowns and 11,661 yards of total offense.
“(The induction) means a lot,” Guidugli said. “I just feel really honored to be in the company of the (UC) Hall of Fame and the people that I was inducted with. It was a really nice ceremony. A lot of getting inducted into the Hall of Fame goes back to the people who helped get you there whether it is coaches or other players you played with.”
The two helped UC to a victory in the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl. Guidugli earned Most Valuable Player honors in that game.
The Chippewas stand 3-6 overall and 2-3 in MAC action in an injury-riddled year. But they hope to finish the year with wins over Western Michigan (1-9, 1-5), the University of Massachusetts (1-8, 1-4) and Eastern Michigan (2-8, 1-5) and become bowl eligible.
“Coaching is what I want to do long-term,” Guidugli said. “It is just a transition. I look back at all the great coaches I had in my career starting with Dale Mueller at Highlands High School with the way those guys prepared you each week and drove you to be successful. That’s what I’m trying to do with the kids that I coach.”
Guidugli said he recruits around Chicago and northern Indiana. That competes with the territories of MAC rivals Northern Illinois, Ball State and Western Michigan among others.
“For me as far as my recruiting area goes, the toughest aspect is it is five hours from Mount Pleasant to Chicago,” Guidugli said. “Not only is it the distance, but you also have to drive past a Ball State, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan or Eastern Michigan to get to Mount Pleasant. That can be a challenge but we’ve had great success getting players out of Chicago. We have a couple in this incoming class that we feel pretty good about. Usually, if we can get the kids on campus, they fall in love with the place.”
The Mid-American Conference teams play during the week a lot for television revenue. That’s been an adjustment for Guidugli.
“When we were at Cincinnati, we had a lot of Friday games that I remember,” Guidugli said. “I think anytime as a player or coach that you can play on national TV and get your players exposure, it’s good for you. It can be a struggle sometimes to game plan if you’re operating on a short week. But I think the benefits outweigh the negatives.”
Guidugli said coaching involves long hours. There are days he’s in the office by 6 a.m. during the season and out by 9 p.m. on many days.
“A lot of people don’t understand the hours and time it takes to get a team prepared to play a game on Saturday,” Guidugli said. “Sometimes, I think other people think you just go to practice and role the ball out on Saturday. Some coaches grind you to the ground, but Coach Enos isn’t one of those coaches. Most of the time, we’re free to go at 6:30 p.m. It’s just that you want to get that extra film study so you can make sure your players are prepared on Saturday. You want to make sure you’ve covered everything and gone over it with your players. A lot of that is voluntary time.”
After graduting from UC, Guidugli tried out for the Tennessee Titans in 2005. He played several years in the Arena Football League and two years in the Canadian Football League with the British Columbia Lions. In 2011, he helped the Arena Football League’s Milwaukee Mustangs to three wins to end the season throwing for 1,313 yards and 23 touchdowns to go with four interceptions.
Guidugli said he still keeps tabs on the Bluebirds. He helped Highlands win Class 3A state championships in 1999 and 2000 before graduating in 2001 and said he hopes they bring another this year.