Chris Creighton has taken a struggling college football team in Eastern Michigan and turned it into a potential threat for teams across the nation. In a sport where many teams are coached by hard-nosed authoritarians who practice tough love, Creighton appears to take more value in getting to know his players and coaching through the building of relationships and positive energy.
Now, five years after taking over at Eastern Michigan, a perennial bottom-feeder in college football, Creighton’s ways may get the team beyond where they could have expected when he first came to the team.
Who is Chris Creighton?
Nothing about Chris Creighton’s coaching career what you would call normal. He didn’t cut his teeth at a Notre Dame or Texas but in D-III schools, overseas, and lesser-known programs. According to his biography on EMU’s web site, Creighton got his start as an offensive coordinator at Concordia and Manchester before becoming head coach at Ottawa University in Kansas.
Amidst all this, Creighton had a brief stint coaching overseas with the Limhamn Griffins in Malmo Sweden. Not content with staying on the sidelines, Creighton was also the team’s quarterback, and he led the team to its first national championship while taking on the dual-roles.
Following his stint at Ottawa, Creighton Coached at Wabash, where had six successful years and Drake, where he spent an additional five. None of these schools were major programs, but his move to Eastern Michigan would help show that Creighton could lead a successful program.
Eastern Michigan took a couple of years to get going after Chris Creighton took over. Winning only three games in his first two seasons put together, the team had moderate success over the next three seasons, where they hovered around a .500 record all three years and came out of the cellar. After a 3-2 start this year, however, many believe that Creighton and the Eagles could be in for a bigger step forward.
The 7-6 record that Creighton had in 2016 was the first .500 season that Eastern Michigan had in over 20 years. This year, the team went 3-0 to start the year, and although they lost the next two games, they could be looking at a bowl bid for the third time in four years.
Chris Creighton’s philosophy
Creighton isn’t out there trying to make his players into a military-like unit. He isn’t out there demeaning them and tearing them down in the name of football, either. Instead, Creighton wants to see his players enjoy the game of football and have a great time while they play under his tutelage.
“The vision for me internally has always been making playing football at Eastern Michigan, or Drake or Wabash or Ottawa one of the most incredible experiences of my players’ lives,” Creighton said to USA Today. “Not the most because that would be pathetic.”
That last sentence runs a sharp contrast to what many would see as the prototypical college football coach who cares only about football and winning. The middle linebacker of the Eagles, Terry Myrick, laughed about how close his coach has gotten to both he and other players, telling USA Today that the coach makes a concerted effort to get to know each players’ friends, spouses, family, and interest outside of the football field.
It is this philosophy, according to Creighton, that drives him on the field.
“The coaching philosophy is that love, and positive reinforcement, are ultimately more powerful than hate, fear, negativity, and intimidation,” Creighton said. “I’m not saying I get an ‘A+’ in this all of the time, but that’s who I’m supposed to be, loving the players and coaches and believing in them. Good comes from that.”
Some coaches may scoff at the notion that love and football go together, but Creighton is showing that not every coach has to be out screaming and belittling their players. Some treat football as what it is — a game, and they want their players to understand this, as well.