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"Deserve Victory"

Since becoming Head Coach at the University of Indianapolis in 2010, Bob Bartolomeo has compiled a 69-24 (.742) record, including a 42-4 (.913) mark in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC). The team has been  crowned league champions five of the past six years and been selected for the NCAA Division II playoffs four of those years.

He is also passionate about helping his players succeed in the classroom. Nine of his student-athletes named Academic All-America and more than 100 having earned GLVC academic accolades.

In the following interview, Bartolomeo talks about getting the program off to a good start, using motivational quotes, and helping his players excel academically.

What were some of the first steps you took when you became head coach?

At the top of my list was to accumulate a good staff. I kept many of the assistant coaches who had already worked with me on the defensive side, and I hired some really good offensive guys. I was able to put together a cohesive team of dedicated coaches.

Just like our staff, I wanted our players to be hard working. So I began using the motto “Deserve Victory.” I got the idea from Bill Lynch during our time together at Ball State. It helps to instill in our players the value and meaning of hard work. Since I took over we’ve been following this mantra. 

Did you do anything else to change the culture?

Another thing we’ve done is to make sure the program is treated as first class. We’ve had great support from Athletic Director Sue Willey and our presidents, the current one being Robert Manuel. They both want football to be successful, and that’s where it all starts. Gaining support from the administration makes our job as coaches easier.

Not that they’ve given me everything I could ask for. But they’ve been part of developing a winning culture by treating us like a big time program and helping me get the most out of our budget. Kids these days want to see that your program provides that big time environment, and we definitely do.

What is your coaching style?

I’m tough but fair. I’m looking for our team to practice hard and play hard. When our opponents walk off the field, I want them to feel like they’ve played against a very competitive team—one that’s disciplined and plays tough, physical football. That’s what I grew up with and it’s part of my personality.

Now that you’ve had success, what keeps motivating you?

We have won some conference championships, but our goal is a national title. I don’t know if any private school has ever won a Division II national championship, and we would like to be the first.

But that goal is behind two others. In general, we have three goals for our players. The first is to get a degree, the second is to be a good guy, and the third is to win. And we keep it in that order. One of the biggest things we’ve done is graduate our kids. Over the past seven years, there have only been two people in our program who didn’t graduate. That’s something we’re quite proud of.

How do you promote academic success?

Two of our most important tools are study tables and grade checks. And once every couple of weeks we’ll wish our players good morning outside their classrooms with cups of coffee. This lets them know we are here to support them when it comes to their academics—while making sure they’re going to class.

We also maintain a great rapport with the academic staff on campus and have consistent communication with professors. They know who our players are, and they keep in good contact with us. And we make sure our kids know that academics are really important. If they have to miss practice because of an academic requirement, then they miss practice.

We also constantly remind players that the number one goal is to get a UIndy degree. It’s written on the wall in our facility, it’s in their playbooks, and it’s in my office.

How do you build that connection with professors and academic staff?

It’s import to be consistent. We ask our players to work at their academics as much as they work on football, and there are consequences if they don’t. If we see during grade checks that a player is not doing his work or going to class, then we put repercussions in place. It isn’t just talk, and professors appreciate that.

You tweet a lot of inspirational quotes. Do you also use them to motivate your team?

The quotes I retweet are the ones that I also verbally share with the team. They’re all sayings that I believe in and I don’t just randomly tweet things. Many of them are directed toward what we are working on that week and our next opponent. Our current players read them and our recruits read them and it helps us all be on the same page.

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