Head Football Coach Dave Caputi, who has been a mainstay on campus since the start of the millenium, announced on Tuesday that he would be stepping down from his position at the conclusion of this season.
“After a good deal of thought and conversations with (Bowdoin Ashmead White Director of Athletics) Tim Ryan, I have decided that this will be my last season as head football coach at Bowdoin,” said Caputi in his official statement on the Athletics website.
Caputi will finish out the rest of his 15th season with the College, and afterwards a national search will be conducted to find his replacement.
According to Caputi, he approached Ryan with his intentions to leave, and they decided to announce his decision as soon as possible for the sake of any recruits who were looking to come to Bowdoin next year.
“The decision was made [to announce his departure in the middle of the season] in order to make sure that the students who we are in the recruiting process with are able to make informed decisions about the composition of our coaching staff,” said Ryan.
While the team is 2-2 this year, Caputi’s overall record is 35-81 (.301), which is the lowest win percentage of any Bowdoin football coach who led the team for more than one year. However, only four multi-year coaches in Bowdoin’s history achieved records over .500, and the program overall is only 392-498-44 (.419) in 123 years of play.
Over his tenure, Caputi’s squad has taken home four Colby-Bowdoin-Bates championships and technically held the trophy for six years (2006-2011) because of several three-way ties. During the six year span, neither Colby nor Bates posted a single record above .500. 2005 was the only season during Caputi’s tenure that his team went above a 4-4 record.
Unsurprisingly, Caputi has been targeted by members of the community who were disappointed in the football team’s success over his career. Two years ago, the Orient posted an anonymous Letter to the Editor on its online blog that called for Caputi’s removal from the College and many commenters debated the opinion of the letter passionately. The team finished 1-7 that season.
According to Ryan, the Athletics Department does not solely determine the success of its programs based on their overall win percentages.
“We evaluate the success of our programs in many different ways,” Ryan said. “How successful we are against our competition is a component of that, but it’s not near the top. The quality of the students that coaches are able to attract to Bowdoin, the character of those students that they bring to campus, the contributions that our programs make in the campus community and the greater Brunswick community—those types of things, as well as the leadership, technical and organizational skills that our coaches have that will position our students to be successful in terms of wins and losses [are more important].”
Jeff Ward, the former Athletics Director who brought Caputi to the College in 2000, said that the coach has received an unfair reputation among many members of the community.
“I think what people fail to realize is where the program was at when he took over,” Ward said. “There were a lot of good guys on some of those early teams, but there was not a whole lot of talent. I don’t think that Bill Parcells could have won a game [with that talent]. It was such an incredible challenge, and the fact that he maintained his work ethic and his philosophy while digging out of that hole is really a tribute to who he is.”
Ward oversaw the transition to Caputi from the previous head coach, Howard Vandersea—who went 1-7 in his last season with the team. The Polar Bears did not find a win until Caputi’s second year. In his first four seasons as head coach, Bowdoin was victorious on only two Saturdays.
“There’s a bit of a luck in coaching,” Ward added. “Both by his ability and his work ethic, [Caputi] should have been rewarded with a lot more wins than he saw. The biggest thing I feel is that people don’t understand really how good of a coach he was.”
For Caputi, the decision to leave his position was one of timing within his own life. His son, starting quarterback Mac Caputi ’15, is graduating this year. He also has a daughter who is a first year at the college and another daughter who will be attending college soon.
Caputi said that his job has caused him to make many sacrifices in his personal life and that after 15 years of long nights and busy weekends, he is ready to take a break. Caputi said he often stays past midnight in his office at the Peter Buck Center for Health and Fitness, making calls to recruits on the West Coast and analyzing game tapes.
Furthermore, Caputi added that his almost non-stop work over the past 15 years has often come at a cost. For example, Caputi remarked that he was in his office for all but nine days last summer, and that for around six of those days, he was attending camps to watch potential recruits for next season.
“My family has had to make sacrifices in order for me to live this life,” he said.
Ward—who still remembers the reasons he hired Caputi—said he understood how the grind of being the head of the football program was one of the reasons why Caputi decided to step down."
“The qualities I saw in him then are the same things that I saw throughout his career,” said Ward. “He is an exceptional person and I think that he is incredibly dedicated to the young men that he coaches, and that his values are exactly in line with those of Bowdoin and the NESCAC. I was in college athletics for three decades and he was probably the hardest-working person I ever saw.”
Considering that the announcement came just days ago, Caputi admitted that he has not given any thought to what he wants to do after leaving Bowdoin.
As the athletics director, Ryan has a unique personal connection to Caputi. A former Bowdoin football player, Caputi hired Ryan as an assistant coach when he decided to return to collegiate athletics in 2005.
“Dave’s been an important part of our community for a long time. He’s a valued mentor and a friend,” Ryan said. “I look forward to continuing our relationship after he moves on to new opportunities after this season.”
Ward, who has maintained close contact with the Bowdoin community since leaving in 2012, made it clear what he thought of Caputi’s announcement.
“It’s a loss for the College,” Ward said. “Bowdoin’s a great place. Tim Ryan will run a great search. They’ll get a very good coach, I’m sure. There just aren’t a whole lot of Dave Caputis though.”