BY CASEY GISCLAIR
Nicholls State University football coach Tim Rebowe has been asked the question thousands of times.
“How did you do it?”
“What have you done to turn the football program around in Thibodaux?”
The coach said people ask the question expecting to hear one concrete answer — a sort of magic potion or elixir he and his coaches have poured onto the program to make it right.
“If we could bottle it and sell it — I promise you, we would,” Rebowe said with a laugh.
But it’s not that simple.
Rebowe said the Colonels’ turnaround is a byproduct of hard work, dedication and relentless effort over several facets of the program, adding that there are many people responsible for the turnaround, which the coach said is still ongoing as the Colonels chase the ultimate goal of the National Championship.
This one is perhaps the most obvious.
Under former coach Charlie Stubbs, the Colonels failed to attract homegrown talent to the program — for various reasons.
But under Rebowe, that has changed and Nicholls has now become somewhat of a hotbed for local players who are good enough to play college football, but who are just not quite good enough to ascend to that SEC-level like an LSU.
The Colonels are extremely local. On Rebowe’s first day on the job, he said he would draw a circle around Thibodaux — about 100 miles wide in all directions.
That’s the place where Nicholls wants to get most of its players.
To date, they’ve followed that plan beautifully with the vast majority of the team coming from that radius.
“We know the area and believe everything we need is right here,” Rebowe said. “That doesn’t mean we won’t go outside of that area if we have to. We will and we’ve done so in the past. But by and large, we feel like there’s enough talent here to sustain us. And from what we’ve seen since we’ve gotten here, I think we’ve shown that to be the case.”
Nicholls’ football program doesn’t even look the same now as it did 5 years ago — literally.
The team wears new uniforms. The turf under players’ feet at John L. Guidry Stadium is renovated and is now state of the art.
And the stadium, itself, has undergone massive renovations to become more modern.
Rebowe said renovations have also been done to the team’s locker room and there has been administrative buy-in to support the program at every turn.
That support is, perhaps, taken for granted now, but is seemingly new. Early in his tenure, Stubbs once told The Times that he had to cut players because he didn’t have enough sets of pads and helmets to fit them for practice.
“Our administration has been great in going above and beyond,” Rebowe said. “In the world we live in today, these things like facilities and what uniform you’re going to wear — those things matter to kids. We’ve still got some work to do, but I think we’ve also made a tremendous amount of progress thanks to our administration and some of the amazing people in our community who support Nicholls athletics.”
Perhaps the biggest change is with expectations.
Before Rebowe got to Nicholls, expectations within the program were low, attendance was even lower and there was no excitement within the program.
Rebowe said he and his staff have fought hard to push back against that current. Over the years, the Colonels’ coaches have met with community members and have hosted events to try and muster support for the Colonels.
Rebowe once served drive-thru breakfast at McDonald’s to shake hands and meet and greet with locals.
But shaking hands is one thing. Winning football things is what matters most, and the coach said he knows the Colonels had to turn things around on the field for there to be full buy-in.
The Colonels’ attendance is up over the past few seasons and coaches all across the campus say there is more Nicholls pride than ever before.
“We don’t see as many LSU shirts walking around these days,” Nicholls baseball coach Seth Thibodeaux said with a laugh, when asked about the resurgence in Colonels’ pride.
Rebowe, too, said he smiles when seeing the Nicholls red on display for sale at local businesses, adding that this wasn’t the case when he took the job.
“There is a lot of momentum and pride,” Rebowe said. “That’s been a big boost for us.”
Players are buying in, as well.
Rebowe said one of the questions he’s often asked by recruits or parents of recruits is, “Can my son play professionally if he goes to Nicholls?”
And, the answer to that question is yes.
This offseason, Nicholls sent two players to the NFL as undrafted free agents. The Colonels also have several other players currently on their roster who are being looked at.
“It’s not any one thing,” Rebowe said when asked about the turnaround. “But it’s been a combination of things and we’re just so grateful to our coaches, our players and our community for being on this journey with us — a journey we are excited to continue next season.” •