Miami's Chuck Martin returns to his former home at Notre Dame
At Miami University, the head football coach is one of the most pressure-filled positions on campus. Chuck Martin has carried that for the past four years since coming to Oxford, and joining a long history of coaches at the school.
"There's about 12 hall of fame coaches staring at me every day so it's pretty cool," said Martin, "but also you feel it and work as hard as you can to make everybody proud."
So far, so good.
Last year, the Miami RedHawks won their final six games of the regular season, becoming the first team in college football history to start 0-6 and make a bowl game.
In just a few years, Martin and his staff have brought the program back from historic depths the restoring a bit of its glory.
"[It's a lot] to take over a [winless] program, and be responsible to try and get the 'Cradle of Coaches' back where it belongs," he said. "What I learned most from B.K. is how to get the organization right."
"B.K." is Martin's shorthand for his mentor: Notre Dame's Brian Kelly.
"I always talk about B.K., and he's a great on-the-field coach, but he's the best off-the-field coach in America."
Before taking the helm at Miami, Martin coached in South Ben for four seasons. He served as offensive coordinator for the final two, including the run to a National Championship appearance in 2012.
"It'll be weird standing on the visitor sidelines, and looking over at the gold helmets," he said. "My love for Notre Dame, my passion for Notre Dame, and what it stands for as an institution of higher learning that plays sports at the highest level, that'll never change."
That passion has obviously stuck with Martin in Oxford, and was furthered in a connection he's made with another coach on Miami's campus.
"Coach Martin has been incredible to me since I came here, day one," said Megan Duffy, head coach of the RedHawks' women's basketball team. "We've shared some really cool stories about Notre Dame, and just sharing different players we knew and him telling old war stories."
Duffy has strong Irish ties as well. She starred at Notre Dame as a player in the mid-2000s, and says she and Martin often discuss the standard of excellence expected at Notre Dame.
"[Miami] is a university that's super successful, and you're inspired to be great at everything you do," she said. "I think that's very much what we learned at Notre Dame, for me as a player and Chuck as an assistant coach."
The experiences Martin and Duffy had in South Bend are exactly what the football program hopes to see this weekend. While Miami is certainly playing for a win on Saturday, Martin knows that the result is just part of a larger opportunity for his team.
The team budgeted in time for a campus visit, hoping to tour the Grotto, Basilica, and Touchdown Jesus.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for any M.A.C. school," he said. "Our kids and everyone involved with Miami gets this opportunity to experience Notre Dame and we're going to make the most of it."