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What legendary Central Michigan coach Herb Deromedi thinks of Jim McElwain


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Former Central Michigan coach Herb Deromedi walks down the field with head coach Jim McElwain on CMU Media Day Aug. 16 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. (Photo: CMU Athletics)

One hundred ten career wins, three Mid-American Conference titles, two MAC Coach of the Year awards, athletic director status, Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, College Football Hall of Fame, MAC Hall of Fame and a member of the NCAA College Football Playoff Selection Committee.

That's Herb Deromedi.

Even at 80 years old, Deromedi remains an all-in member of the Central Michigan football program, the athletic department and university.

Deromedi hasn't been an employee since 2006, but he's always around – football practices, team meetings before the Western Michigan game, athletic events, drives around campus and the weekly "Coach Mac Radio Show" at Hunters Ale House.

Either as an administrative member or an icon that remains connected to the program, Deromedi has witnessed head coaching takeovers by Dick Flynn, Mike DeBord, Brian Kelly, Butch Jones, Dan Enos and John Bonamego.

Now he's seen Jim McElwain.

"I'm so excited for him," Deromedi said. "I think you've got a coaching staff that understands what it takes. They're able to get that across to the players – the discipline, the practice."

Deromedi said the path to building a winning program begins with relationships and communication. He's witnessed the communication between McElwain and the players first hand on a variety of occasions.

The Chippewas are currently 5-4 overall and 3-2 in the Mid-American Conference. Deromedi said he knows McElwain has plans of taking Central Michigan to the top of the conference and putting the program in a consistent national conversation. 

"I've heard him say this, 'We're here, but we know we want to be here. What's it going to take?'" Deromedi said. "I think they have a plan and people that are sold on what it's going to take. 

"They aren't there yet, but they can get there."

Yet, Deromedi doesn't want to put pressure on McElwain, and he didn't explain much on what his expectations are moving forward.

"Well, I never want to put the gun on anybody and say what you have to be," Deromedi said.

The 16-year coach and all-time wins leader in the MAC – tied with current Ohio coach Frank Solich at 110 victories – understands the state of the conference. 

After all, Deromedi won MAC championships in 1979, 1980 and 1990. He was also a coaching staff member of Roy Kramer's NCAA Division II championship team in 1974 – the push that jumped Central Michigan to the Division I level.

Success is not simple to find, and it's not easy to maintain.

"You don't look anywhere on that schedule and say, 'Here we got one, here we got one, so now we just have to win these three,'" Deromedi said. "Every week is the real deal."

Former Central Michigan coaches Roy Kramer (left) and Herb Deromedi (right) talk with head coach Jim McElwain (middle) on CMU Media Day Aug. 16 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. (Photo: CMU Athletics)

When CMU Athletic Director Michael Alford announced the hiring of McElwain on Dec. 2, Deromedi was ecstatic to meet him.

Deromedi first learned of McElwain when he made the move from Colorado State to Florida following the 2014 season, but he never shook his hand or heard him speak.

Then, the pair met in Mount Pleasant.

"It doesn't take long when you first meet him to say, 'Hey, this guy's got it,'" Deromedi said. "I remember telling my wife (Marilyn Deromedi), 'They're going to like playing for him.' I just felt that."

And as it turns out, it was the prosperity Deromedi set in place within the program that drew McElwain to Central Michigan.

If it wasn't for Deromedi's success, McElwain might have never come to coach the Chippewas.

"It was that rich tradition that really drew us to CMU, with legendary coaches like Roy Kramer and Herb Deromedi and championship teams," McElwain said. "We want to continue that tradition and build on it."

For the players that are a part of McElwain's program, Deromedi said they will hold memories that will last forever, much like his 1979 team. 

That group went 10-0-1 overall and 8-0-1 in the MAC.

"He's got that staff, and he understands," Deromedi said. "He's been there. Everything is there. Those players that are a part of this program right now will have memories that will serve them much like those in 1979."

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