Q&A with David Archer '05, Cornell's new head football coach
David Archer '05, a former football captain as a player and architect of the Big Red's recent recruiting success, has been named the Roger J. Weiss '61 Head Coach of Football. Andy Noel, the Meakem*Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education, made the announcement at a Jan. 4 press conference. Archer completed six seasons as a Cornell assistant coach and four years as recruiting coordinator. Archer is the 27th head coach in school history and, at 30 years and two months old, the youngest Division I head football coach in the country.
What does this new role mean to you?
It means a great deal of responsibility and a great opportunity to serve a place that has given me so much. I look at it as an incredible opportunity to work with amazing people. President David Skorton, Vice President Susan Murphy, Director of Athletics Andy Noel, our amazing alumni, our current players, our current students, our football supporters, the Ithaca community. There are so many amazing people, and I'm honored to be their football coach.
Are you surprised you're Cornell's head football coach so early in your career?
Of course. I mean, this is one of the top jobs in the entire country. The fact that it opened was a surprise. The fact I was able to gain an interview and compete with so many highly qualified and outstanding candidates -- I have a lot of respect for the opportunity that was given me.
What is your philosophy as coach?
I am in charge of the entire Cornell football program, from recruiting to offense and defense, to special teams, and strength and conditioning. Our philosophy is that it's all about the people, and when I wake up I need to be thinking of my staff, our current players, our former players, our supporters and alumni and our colleagues working at Cornell. To me, it's all about the people, and I see that as my chief job. I need to hire and delegate to outstanding coaches and make sure they are doing the things we want done.
What is your focus as you build a staff?
I'm looking for someone who is a great teacher. Coaches need to be educators, especially at Cornell where they need to be part of our student-athletes' educational experience. I want guys who are great with kids and enjoy working with young men, [ones who are] highly motivated and that see Cornell like I see Cornell -- that this is the best place in the country to work.
How did your experience in Teach for America help you become a better coach?
In my short two years with Teach for America, I learned so much from that experience. It has my highest recommendation for anyone thinking about being part of the program. I can't say enough things about what they do. They taught me to be a leader from day one, because you're the CEO of that classroom. They teach you to break down skills and push those skills and objectives through Bloom's Taxonomy [a method of classification of educational goals] to educate kids on that particular subject matter. In terms of how to progress and grow somebody as an educator and how to be a leader in a classroom setting, I owe that to Teach for America.
What's your favorite spot on campus?
The president's box at Schoellkopf Field. I love walking up to the top of the crescent.
Was there a moment as a student-athlete that had particular impact on your love of Cornell?
I came up here with my dad to watch the Cornell football spring game when I was still a high school recruit. Cornell was playing Princeton in lacrosse, and I was in the bookstore. I had turned down Harvard, and I was still unsure if this was the place for me. The marching band burst through the doors and started playing the fight song and marched through the bookstore. I looked at my dad and looked at the band and felt this was exactly the place I wanted to be.
What's the advantage of being a coach who understands what it's like to be a student at Cornell?
I think there are a lot of things unique to a student at Cornell and what they have on their plate. Even inside the Ivy League, Cornell is different because of the seven colleges, and the expectations of each of the colleges are different. I think having that background and knowledge of what the expectations are for our players and what they're going through is valuable when you're trying to lead.
How do you sell a young man to Cornell who may not know that much about the university?
The first thing I tell them about is Ezra Cornell's mission -- "Any person, any study." We have a place here that attracts students internationally because they know they can come here and work for excellence in whatever field they want. When I think about what an unbelievable worldwide institution this is, and how it was one man's idea, and he said that we are going to open this up to any person, from any walk of life, from any background who wants to be great, that's the very first thing I talk about.