Some may question what would motivate a football coach to leave one of the most successful programs in NCAA Division III to take the reins at a college program that hasn't won a game in the past two seasons.
But to understand what motivates St. Vincent coach Ron Dolciato, one must recognize the passion to teach football and bring success to a program that is his beginning this season.
"I left a national championship contender at John Carroll," said Dolciato, who graduated from the Cleveland-area school in 1990 and was a part of the Blue Streaks coaching staff until the end of last season when he was the offensive coordinator for a team that averaged 451.5 yards per game and had the 14th-best passing attack in Division III.
So, to leave a program that is well-grounded in winning for a program that has been in the proverbial desert for the past two seasons might be inexplicable, but not to Dolciato.
"I see a lot of similarities in the atmosphere and the schools and the way they conduct business," he said. "That's the main reason I'm here today."
Dolciato has been on campus near Latrobe since the spring, and he believes that the Bearcats must be sound defensively, and he likes what he's seen thus far as 10 of the team's 11 starters from a year ago have returned along with eight offensive starters.
"We have the most talent coming back on defense, and in watching film from last year, we weren't bad defensively," he said. "That's our biggest strength. And I think our recruiting class is pretty good."
In a move reminiscent of when Johnny Majors took over the University of Pittsburgh's football program in his first stint in 1973, Dolciato and his coaches have recruited 65 freshmen to join the Bearcats program.
"I'd like to say [the freshmen] are very good, but we definitely have 10 to 15 kids who we feel are going to contribute right away," he said. "When we got here, there was only two of us recruiting, and we did that for about six weeks.
"We got some other coaches. So, basically, our recruiting class is the result of three people -- myself, [special teams coordinator and linebackers coach] Phil Bokovitz and [associate head coach and recruiting coordinator] Andy Hoffman.
"We didn't have a full staff in place, and we worked diligently, stayed on the phones and did what we needed to do to get the biggest class we've had since the inception of the program."
Dolciato's biggest concern is with the Bearcats offensive line.
"There's no doubt," he said. "We only have five returning offensive linemen, so we've recruited 10 offensive linemen. There's no question we're going to have some freshmen starting on the offensive line. That is the biggest weakness on this football team. I think everybody knows it."
Another big concern is how quickly the Bearcats adjust to a new approach as to how the game is played.
"This is going to be night and day," he said. "They were a 4-3 team, and we're going to have an odd front with an aggressive defense. Offensively, we'll be no-huddle. We'll be able to check from the sideline or the press box. Last year, they were more of a pro-style offense."
Dolciato hasn't seen much of the Presidents' Athletic Conference as he was coaching a team in the Ohio Athletic Conference. But he said the league has a good reputation.
"It is a well-respected league, and I played in the PAC for three years [when John Carroll was a member school]," he said. "But it's been 25 years [since the Blue Streaks were in the PAC], but I'm excited to play new opponents and it does get kind of old [playing the same opponents veery season]."
One new opponent, though, for Dolciato will be a familiar one as his Bearcats travel to Cleveland to meet John Carroll in the season opener on Sept. 6.
"That game was put on the schedule about a year-and-a-half ago when I was at John Carroll," he said. "The John Carroll administration wanted to play a Pennsylvania team that was close to Pittsburgh for alumni reasons.
"It's ironic that I was there for 28 years -- four as a player and 24 as an assistant -- and my first game will be on the visiting side of that stadium. I've never been to the visitors locker room [at JCU], so it will definitely be interesting.
"But there's no secret. John Carroll is ranked No. 10 in the country, and they have a quarterback, Mark Myers, who is going to be playing in the NFL. He transferred to John Carroll from Pitt.
"Our motto is to just try to get better."