Monday, November 11, 2013
By A.N. Kini '13
The Wall Street Journal featured the "unwavering support" Patriots Coach Bill Belichick '75 gave the Wesleyan Cardinals, and his friendship with head coach and athletic director Mike Whalen '83. The Cardinals share the NESCAC title with Amherst and Middlebury with a 7-1 record.
For a man so philosophically committed to the present, Belichick remains deeply appreciative of his Wesleyan past. From the moment Whalen made the surprising move to coach his alma mater after six seasons on the sideline at perennial league power Williams, Belichick, who played center and tight end in college, has lent his support.
Their relationship began unspectacularly.
While at the helm of rival Williams, Whalen had grown close with Patriots President Jonathan Kraft, himself a Williams alum. Periodically, Whalen would be Kraft's guest to Patriots' home games. "I would go to a couple games and I'd see Bill and he'd be very cordial and that kind of stuff, but there was really no connection," Whalen recalled. At Williams, Whalen was a perfect 6-0 against the alma mater of the fiercely competitive Belichick, which may describe why the pair's relationship never transcended mere cordiality during Whalen's reign in Williamstown.
But Whalen was eventually lured back to Wesleyan by then-new president, Michael Roth, who promised that the school was finally going to make a stronger institutional commitment to football. Whalen eventually accepted the rebuilding project—to fans of the NESCAC, it was tantamount to Nick Saban departing Alabama to take the Kentucky job.
From there, his relationship with Belichick immediately changed. "When I made the decision to come, one of the first phone calls I got was from Bill. He told me how happy he was that I was coming back," recounted Whalen. "His words were 'leaving the dark side and coming home.'"
Image: by Ryan Heffernan
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