Dartmouth Football hires new wide-receiver coach, Dave Shula ’81

by Maya Moten | 4/9/18 2:15am

Dartmouth football head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 officially announced the hiring of wide receiver coach Dave Shula ’81 two weeks ago, marking a drastic change in the football staff for the upcoming 2018-19 football season.

Hailing from Lexington, Kentucky, Shula has had an extensive background in the National Football League, having spent one year as a player for the then-Baltimore Colts and nearly 15 years as a coach for the Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1981, Shula was undrafted in the 1981 NFL draft, but signed on as a free agent for the Colts as the kickoff and punt returner, seeing action in all 16 regular season games. After just a one-season stint as a player, he began his coaching career as a wide receiver coach for the Miami Dolphins. His father, the legendary Don Shula, was the head coach of the team at the time. He stayed on the Dolphins’ coaching staff until 1989 before moving on to become offensive coordinator of the Cowboys. He was demoted after two seasons and moved on to become the wide receiver coach for the Bengals. After just one season in Cincinnati, but with over a decade of experience as an assistant coach across the three teams, he was promoted to become head coach for the Bengals in 1992 at age 32. He remained head coach for four and a half seasons, compiling an overall record of 19-52 before moving on from the NFL. He joins Dartmouth’s football staff after a 22-year hiatus from coaching. 

Wide receiver Hunter Hagdorn ’20 revealed that the team learned about the new hire early on in the spring. 

“[We] found [out] about Coach Shula the day that we got back,” Hagdorn said. “It was a Monday, the first day back to workouts and school. Coach Teevens held off on telling the team about the hiring until that Monday because it was a last minute deal about the logistics.”

During the team meeting, the players had the opportunity to meet with Shula, who was excited to be back in Hanover and work with the group for the upcoming season.

“[Coach Teevens] had Coach Shula introduce himself and [he] said that he was excited to work with the team, be back in Hanover and see what he would be able to do as far as being a group this season,” defensive lineman Jackson Perry ’19 said. 

   Linebacker Jack Traynor ’19 added that Shula held separate one-on-one meetings with the wide receivers afterwards to begin getting to know each one individually.

   According to Hagdorn, Shula took the time to reassure the receivers that he wants to come into the program and not change the dynamic of the team and the culture that Dartmouth Football has built, but rather help players.

The arrival of the assistant coach shocked and excited the team.

“I definitely think that the wide receivers were really excited to talk work with someone as [high]-status as Coach Shula,” Perry said. “The rest of the team is kind of in shock and we haven’t really gotten to experience what he can do as a coach, so we’ll find more about that this spring. But the wide receivers seem to be really excited so far.”

The hiring of the new coach is not only exciting for the receivers, but for other members of the team as well, due to his extensive playing and coaching background in the NFL.

“We were really excited as he has a great reputation, great experience and we believe he will be a great addition to our team  and bring added success,” Traynor said.

His connection to Dartmouth allowed him to quickly bond with head coach Teevens.

“Coach Teevens is really excited to have him at Dartmouth,” Hagdorn said. “Being an alum, they were both former players and on the team here together at Dartmouth. They know the culture and the program well and Coach Teevens is excited to have him back on board.”

Shula arrives as the new assistant coach following coach Jerry Taylor’s departure at the end of last season to join the College of William and Mary as a wide receivers coach. After serving as the offensive quality control coach during his first year at Dartmouth, he was promoted to oversee the wide receiver core for the next three years. During each of his seasons, at least one Big Green wide receiver garnered All Ivy-League honors. In the 2015-16 season, he contributed to Dartmouth averaging over 30 points a game on the team’s way to its first Ivy League title in 19 years.

Although the team is disappointed to see Taylor leave, they also recognize the opportunity for a new approach to the game. 

“I‘ve always been a guy that looks forward to new perspectives,” Hagdorn said. “When you have a coach for two years, sometimes it’s good to have new perspectives, and I think that Coach Shula will be able to provide that.”

With his robust professional background, the team is hoping that he will be able to share his insight from the professional level.

“For the entire team, [what we are most excited for is] his experience at the next level, like what he can bring from the professional level to the college level,” Perry said. “Not only for this upcoming season, but also for the NFL ... any snippets that he can bring that would make our game that much better.”