So Mackovic, who in 1986 took the Kansas City Chiefs to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years and took both Wake Forest and Illinois to bowl games, grinds forward. "When there are dirty jobs to do," he says, "I know who's asked to do them." This is the dirtiest job of all at Texas: making people forget history.
Akron's history is no factor at all. John Heisman coached the Zips in 1893 and "94, and their history has been largely nondescript since. It's Faust's history that's the story. Nothing he does from today until his retirement will erase the stigma of going 30-26-1 from 1981 to '85 at Notre Dame. Now, after eight seasons at Akron, he remains relentlessly average: 42-43-3.
The numbers would seem to indicate that he is working against a clock. Akron fans, however, appear divided on the subject. One portion respects Faust as a diligent, honest gentleman who will never embarrass the university. Another portion is still resentful of Faust for having been foisted upon the program in 1986 by then president William Muse and for having done nothing miraculous since. And on the subject of fans, there aren't enough of them: An average of 17,741 came to the 35,202-seat Rubber Bowl for five home games last year.
There are mitigating factors. Faust has a four-year contract extension that begins this year, and Mike Bobinski, the aggressive, 36-year-old athletic director appointed just last spring, has overseen more than $1 million in improvements to Akron's athletic facilities (including new artificial turf for the Rubber Bowl). But like the recruiting at Texas, such positives only diminish patience. Even Bobinski—who was an assistant AD at Notre Dame while Faust twisted in the wind, and who wishes desperately to avoid a repeat of that death watch—says, "I do want to win, and I believe the program can win with Gerry."
Faust, 59, remains convinced that he sits on the cusp of a breakthrough. Under him Akron became the first program to go from Division I-AA to I-A, despite laughably inadequate facilities. Faust would sooner miss Mass than criticize another human being, but his job was not made any easier by the fact that Bobinski's predecessor as athletic director was Jim Dennison, who had been forced out as football coach to make room for Faust.
"Seven years I was beating my head against a wall," Faust says, gently doing just that, for emphasis. "It was a tough move [to Akron], a very tough move, because of the facilities and the jump to I-A. I think we've done an excellent job with what we started with."
He remains upbeat about his tenure at Notre Dame. He even returned to South Bend in April to watch a day of spring practice. Faust admits that when he took the Irish job. "I didn't know what I was doing." but he still dreams of a triumphant return. "If Notre Dame called and asked me back. I'd go," he says. "You never know."
For now there are problems enough at Akron, what with only three defensive first-stringers back from a 5-6 team. "We're going to win here," says Faust. When recruits see the improved facilities, he says, they'll come, and people will know then that Gerry Faust can be a good college football coach. Won't they? "I am a good college football coach." Faust says, uncharacteristically defiant.
But for Faust, as well as for Perles, Mackovic and all the rest, that is a judgment for somebody else to make.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]