Tim Rebowe knew what he was getting into when he accepted an offer to become the head football coach at Nicholls State last November.
The Colonels were coming off a dreadful 0-12 season that stretched their losing streak to a school-record 18 games, which in itself might have scared off most potential candidates.
Not Rebowe, a 52-year-old Norco native who was a highly successful head coach at Destrehan High School before serving as an assistant coach at three Louisiana universities.
“I tell people this all the time: They don’t just give head coaching jobs away,” Rebowe said at Southland Conference Media Day on Wednesday.
He knows because Rebowe coveted the Nicholls State job five years earlier, but school officials hired Charlie Stubbs instead.
Stubbs went 10-38 before stepping down three games into last season because of health issues. Nine more losses followed under interim coach Steve Axman, leaving the Nicholls State football program at the lowest point in its 43-year history.
But as secure as he was during an 11-year stint as an assistant at UL-Lafayette — the past four finishing with New Orleans Bowl victories — Rebowe knew he wanted the Nicholls State job.
“I do think it can be a special place,” he said.
Again, Rebowe knows.
He was an assistant coach for six years there from 1995-2000 under Darren Barbier and Daryl Daye before moving on to the UL-Monroe and eventually UL-Lafayette.
While he experienced only one winning season at Nicholls, it was a memorable one. The Colonels went 8-4 and earned a berth in the Division I-AA (now FCS) playoffs for the first time in school history.
Even though Nicholls State has had only four winning seasons in the past 20 years, Rebowe sees the potential some others may not.
That vision comes in part from his stay there, and from three of his close friends who were head coaches at the school: Barbier, Daye and Jay Thomas.
Rebowe said he even talked to Barbier and Thomas — who’s now the head coach at Northwestern State — about the job, even though he’d essentially made up his mind that he wanted to be considered again.
“I think when Nicholls has had some success in the past, they’ve had certain people in position to have success,” Rebowe said. “Go back farther to Sonny Jackson and Phil Greco (in the 1980s). They won. So it can be done.
“You can have some success there,” he reiterated. “You just have to do it the right way with the right people in that area. The community is starving for some success, so they’re really getting behind it.”
He said going after the job was a no-brainer, one that was made easier by UL-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth while the Ragin’ Cajuns were finishing up their regular season and preparing for a bowl game.
“He was good to me,” Rebowe said of Hudspeth. “He said, ‘Hey, I want you to go after it, and do what you have to do for it.’ ”
As soon as his duties with UL-Lafayette were completed, Rebowe officially took on the daunting task of trying to make Nicholls State relevant on the football field again.
One of his top priorities is to recruit the Baton Rouge area hard, which he said Stubbs’ staff did a pretty good job of in recent years. Rebowe got 30 recruits on board this winter and expects to sign 30 more in February.
But he knows that’s just part of what he has to do to turn things around.
“We’ve been out; we’ve been visible; we’re trying to get the community back,” he said. “We know it’s been a tough couple of years, but it’s been a tremendous couple of months for us.
“Recruiting has been better, but we have more work to do. We have to improve some facilities. We’ve got to roll up our sleeves, which we’re already doing. But I think you can have some success in Thibodaux, Louisiana.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter: @MicklesAdvocate.