Five-a-Side: San Diego's Dale Lindsey

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Dale Lindsey fashions the idea that 70 is the new 50.

"I still can see my toes and I do have some hair left," he says. "And I do try to take care of myself. I've got some vanity, too."

There's a lot for Lindsey to be proud of these days. Besides feeling and looking good, he became the University of San Diego's head football coach on Dec. 29.

But the fact also is that on Friday, Lindsey celebrated his 70th birthday.

So last month, when USD searched for a new head coach, he hardly seemed to be a candidate, let alone the best candidate.

Yet as USD looked to replace Ron Caragher, who left to become the head coach at San Jose State, athletic director Ky Snyder went from relying on Lindsey, the Toreros' defensive coordinator, during the process to deciding he should be Caragher's successor.

It was a surprising hire considering Lindsey had been coaching for nearly 40 years and had yet to be a head coach other than on the high school level. His career extends to stints in the old World Football League and USFL as well as with seven NFL teams and several Division I schools.

When Lindsey was bypassed for a D-I head coaching job in early 1990s, he resigned himself to the thought he would remain an assistant coach for the remainder of his career.

Now, as the Toreros come off a 2012 season in which they earned a share of the Pioneer Football League title, and enter a season in which the non-scholarship league will gain an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs for its winner, Lindsey is more interested in delivering a championship moment than having a senior moment.

The second-oldest FCS head coach to Albany's 75-year-old Bob Ford (who's been on the job since 1970), Lindsey is ready to use the vast knowledge gained in his career to teach both a coaching staff whose members look like they could be his sons and a team of student-athletes who look like they could be his grandsons.

The style of the former linebacker and fullback at the University of Kentucky and then Western Kentucky, who spent nine seasons in the NFL in the 1960s and '70s, mostly with the Cleveland Browns, is to empower others while remaining humble and keeping a good sense of humor.

Lindsey doesn't want to change USD's winning formula. He has hired Mike Rutenberg from New Mexico State to succeed himself as defensive coordinator, and Tanner Engstrand has remained on as offensive coordinator.

In Five-a-Side - In the FCS Huddle's monthly feature of "five questions, five answers" with an influential person in the FCS - Lindsey discusses his unusual story of being a first-time college head coach at 70.

Let's kick off:

TSN: We live in a world where teams and schools aren't hiring 70-year-old head coaches. How much is your age an issue here?

DL: Well, it's not an issue with me, it might be with other people. If it is, that's their problem. The whole thing about age, it's not what you are chronologically, it's what you are functionally. And I don't function like a 70-year-old. I don't have a wheelchair or a cain, I'm still in good shape, I work out every day. I don't have any kind of head trauma from playing. I do remember where I live and I can remember my children's names. So I think if it's an issue for other people, fine. I don't act and I don't look 70 years old. It doesn't bother me.

TSN: Do you look at your situation as an advantage in any way?

DL: No, but I think I'm probably more prepared for this job now than I would have been 40 years ago, 30 years ago, and it's because of the experience I've had of being around some good people. Plus, I have been here twice before. I worked here in 2008 for Ron Caragher. I worked here in 2012 for Ron. I've seen how the school sort of operates. I know the restrictions academically and what we have to face in recruiting and what the school wants out of this program. I think that helps me.

Coming in totally from the outside, it could have probably been a much tougher job, I think.

TSN: Do you feel with your experiences that you can help your players learn as much off the field as on it?

DL: I certainly can because I think that you're talking to someone who doesn't wear a halo, never lives a perfect life, knows a lot of the pitfalls, and I listened to experienced older persons, particularly my father, (which) could have saved me a lot of grief in life, but I didn't think he was very smart because he was older. And I try to get that across to these kids that they're not talking to a guy who grew up with a golden spoon in his mouth and did everything right. You're talking about somebody who's lived life, made a lot of mistakes, knows the pitfalls and, believe me, I'm only telling you for your own good, (that) I get no joy out of watching you fail.

TSN: You've been coaching for such a long time. Is there something about you that a lot of people don't know and would be surprised to learn about you?

DL: I think the image that somehow has been projected of me by the media is not me. I'm not (a disciplinarian), a down-the-line, military-type person. I do take football very seriously and it's something that I approach in life that I don't want to do perfect because I know you can't. But I also am very fun-loving, I like to joke, I like for the kids to have fun. This game is hard enough when everything is going right. When it's not, it's really hell. And what I want these kids to do is enjoy the process, enjoy the moment and relish it because these are moments that a lot of 'em will never have again in their lives, and I want it to be memorable, and not in a negative manner but in a positive manner.

TSN: Is it tougher to coach in a city like San Diego - warm weather, lots to do - than, say, a city like Fargo, N.D., where the last two national championship teams are from?

DL: Well, I have nothing against Fargo, N.D., but I don't want to live there. I think it's easier to coach in a place like this. We have kids that come to school here because of the weather, because of the program, because of the academics at the school. Living in San Diego, where today I think it's 70 and there's not a cloud in the sky and the sun's out - and this is a January day? - I think it's an advantage. I think there's a lot of kids that are in climates in the midwest and back east, they come here and they see this, they really like it.

You're talking to a guy from Kentucky who's not leaving (the San Diego area) under any circumstance. I can't imagine living anywhere else where there's seasonal climates.

I don't think North Dakota State is at a disadvantage. They've got an established program, they have scholarships, they have facilities. So they've got attractions beyond that. Their (recruits) are saying, 'I don't care if there's two feet of snow. They win, that's where I want to go.'

You never know, sometimes it's the color of the uniform that attracts a kid. I've seen that happen. That happened when I coached at SMU. We had a kid that wanted to come to SMU because of the uniform. That's fine.