Former Western Kentucky coach David Elson returns to Bowling Green this weekend as the defensive coordinator for Ball State, WKU’s opponent at 6 p.m. Saturday at Houchens-Smith Stadium.
Elson is respectfully declining all interviews this week, BSU associate athletics director Michael Clark told WBKO.
“It’s been great to see (Elson) come in. That was the only change to our staff in the offseason,” Ball State coach Mike Neu said earlier this week. “To get on the same page and to make sure that our defensive staff that was here in place, he did a great job of getting each one of them in the room and making sure that we were all on the same page.
“I’ve been very impressed with him, of how he set about his business breaking down our opponent each and every week. I know this is a big opportunity for him, to come back to a place that was really special to him.”
Elson, 46, was promoted to WKU’s head coach in 2003 to replace Jack Harbaugh – the Harbaugh-led Tops won the 2002 I-AA national championship with a 12-3 record and 34-14 win over McNeese State in Chattanooga, Tenn. Elson joined the Western staff as an assistant in 1996.
Western went 18-7 the following two seasons and 1-2 in the playoffs before a 6-5 season in 2005. After a 6-5 record in 2006, WKU began the transition to I-A, going 7-5 in 2007 and falling to 2-10 in 2008.
The Hilltoppers lost the final eight games in ’08, then the first nine of ’09 – and Elson was fired Nov. 9 of that year by former athletic director Wood Selig and former University president Dr. Gary Ransdell. Elson had previously been approved for a contract extension earlier that year to remain the team’s coach through 2016 and his buyout was reportedly $500,000.
Elson, who finished the 2009 season with three more losses, took a defensive quality control position at Indiana in 2010, then returned to south-central Kentucky in 2011 to be the defensive coordinator at Franklin-Simpson High School. He helped lead the Wildcats to the Class 4A state title game – a game played at Houchens-Smith Stadium.
A two-year stop at New Mexico State as the defensive coordinator followed by a one-year visits to Southern Illinois and Western Illinois, respectively, in the same capacity led Elson to his current job.
The Cardinals’ defense in three games under Elson has held opponents to 22.7 points per game, 184 passing yards per contest and forced five turnovers. It also features the nation’s leader in sacks in senior defensive end Anthony Winbush who has 6 1/2.
— Follow WBKO sportswriter Chad Bishop on Twitter @MrChadBishop