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With school out for spring break, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Russ Huesman had time last week to get roasted by the Classic 150 Club, play a few rounds of golf and sit down for a Q&A with the Times Free Press:

Q: Just like with the roast last Monday, do you sometimes get embarrassed by the amount of praise and attention you've received after back-to-back 6-5 seasons?

Huesman: Sometimes it boggles my mind a little bit, but I can see where the program was a year or two beforehand, and there are some nice strides being made.

Like I've said before, 6-5 is not really good enough. I think it's good for right now, but eventually it's not. We've got a chance to do good things here before we're all done.

Q: How much more comfortable are you doing all the head coach things now than you were a year or two ago?

Huesman: I feel better right now doing the head coaching job. I feel less competent as a defensive coach right now than I did two years ago, but I actually feel better about my role sitting behind this desk.

Q: Is that because you can't devote 100 percent of your time to the defense like you used to?

Huesman: I used to sit in the car when I was driving and just think about defensive stuff and coverage stuff and techniques and drills. It was always on my mind.

Now, unless I walk in [defensive coordinator Adam Fuller's] office, normally it's not on my mind until I go in there and try to turn it on. So I'm probably not doing a great job there [coaching safeties], and I've got to get better.

Whenever I'm in my car now, I think about class checks, academics, lifting, just the broad spectrum. I can see why head coaches in a lot of places distance themselves from the football aspect of it, other than watching and seeing little things as they watch practice.

Q: How important is it to get UTC's students more involved at games and having them be a more consistent presence? They came out in big numbers for the season opener and homecoming, but there weren't too many there for the other games.

Huesman: I'm not sure how to do it. I don't want this to seem like a copout, but in some ways it's a marketing, it's an athletic department issue to figure out how we're going to reach out to them.

I said to get the city involved, put a winner or a product that's out there that's good. Maybe to get the student body involved it's how accessible, how easy is it, how much fun is it? What are you doing for them?

I bet if we hosted a home playoff game, I guarantee you it would be packed with all our students.

It's not just here, it's like that everywhere these days.

Q: As a head coach during spring break, do you get nervous with your guys scattered around at beaches or wherever they are?

Huesman: Every time my phone rings and I look and see an area code that's Atlanta, Alabama, that I don't know, I think "uh-oh," it's something. But so far it's been good. I trust our guys.

Q: Does winning or losing feel different as a head coach than it did as a player or an assistant? Do the losses hurt worse as a head coach?

Huesman: I've never thought about that, so I'm not real sure. They all hurt when you lose, and they all feel good when you win. I don't know that if feels much different.

Say you're a defensive coordinator and you don't play real good defense and you lose the game. When you're driving in your car going home, you're thinking, "That dude's going to fire me." Right now I drive in my car and hit myself in the head, but I'm not thinking the head coach is going to fire me because I'm not going to fire myself.

Q: Will there be a piece of advice you give your son Jacob before he begins preseason practice?

Huesman: I think his mom raised him pretty good [laughs], and we trust him, obviously, to do the right things when he's in the dorm, when he's on campus and going to class.

I would say my piece of advice is probably the same advice I gave any kid that I recruited and got to know really well: It's a lot harder than high school. Your practices may not be as long, but the competition and the level that you're going against is so much different. Sometimes they don't realize that because they're the star.

I hope he realizes and I'll make sure he knows what kind of commitment and effort he has to put in in the summertime to get himself ready to compete.

Q: What was it like growing up in Cincinnati in the 1970s during the Reds' "Big Red Machine" years?

Huesman: Now you can watch every game on TV, but then you might see them once a month. I remember sitting in the driveway and my dad opening the garage door and sitting in his chair with the Reds game on every night. Every night it was on the radio, [my parents] would sit out there in the driveway and I'd shoot hoops or throw the baseball or run around.

Or I'd pull in from somewhere and they're be out there sitting and listening to the Reds game. It was every night and I'm sure there were people sitting in chairs throughout Cincinnati, just like they were.

It was pretty neat.

Q: Are you a Cincinnati Bengals fan, too? If so, how hard has that been?

Huesman: Oh, yeah, I loved the Bengals. But it hasn't been too hard [seeing them lose so often].

I'll be honest with you, and I hate to say this, but as long as [the Mocs are] winning I couldn't care less who else is winning or losing. As long as we're winning, whatever else that happens out there doesn't really matter.

At the end of the day, UTC is what I'm about.

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