HAMPTON — When Connell Maynor arrives at his office at Hampton University's Armstrong Stadium, he is greeted by the sounds of construction equipment and earth movers and the rhythmic beep-beep-beep of heavy machinery in reverse.
"That's lovely," HU's new football coach said with a smile the other day. "The stadium and the bulldozers and the dump trucks and things of that nature, right outside the door. They're making a lot of noise for a good reason, putting down that turf."
Workers are roughly a month into the installation of a new, state-of-the-art artificial turf field at Armstrong Stadium.
Work involved stripping away the old grass surface, then leveling and grading the field. A drainage base and foundation are spread over the playing field, and finally the turf is rolled out, secured, smoothed and painted.
The project was delayed several weeks as the school obtained the necessary permits from the city of Hampton. The original timetable called for work to be complete by the end of July. Now, Maynor said the field is likely to be ready by the second week of August.
"What I wanted to do," Maynor said, "is make sure we were able to get a couple weeks of practice on it, and we'll be able to do that. We'll be fine."
As metaphors go, you could do worse than likening the field work at Armstrong Stadium to Maynor's task. He aims to strip away the remnants of back-to-back losing seasons, to rebuild a foundation and finally to present a finished product that returns Hampton to the top of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and beyond.
"I'm very pleased with the way the guys have responded to our coaching, our systems, the discipline that we've installed," Maynor said. "I do believe they've bought into the system.
"Now, we've got to get to playing some football. Of course, when you've got a new program, one of the things that you need is you really need success early. You need them to buy in. To get them to buy in, you need some success early, and then they really buy in. Now, we've got to get out there and try and get some wins early."
The Pirates' schedule isn't tailored for early success. HU opens at Old Dominion, in its first season as a full-go, Football Bowl Subdivision program. The next two games are versus William and Mary and Richmond, which return the majority of their starters and are expected to be in the upper tier of the Colonial Athletic Association.
"For me," Maynor said, "what I've got to do is I've got to get my players to learn, learn our system, understand our system, understand the game of football a little bit better — what teams are trying to do to us and what we want to do and why. Once you get the players to understand that and start executing that way, you'll start being successful."
New program and new location aside, Maynor said that this summer hasn't been dramatically different than previous summers as the head coach at Winston-Salem State.
"You've got kids going to summer school," he said. "You've got to make sure your guys stay eligible. You try to get as many as you can in summer school so those guys can work out, with weights and conditioning. You try to get some 7-on-7 (on-field workouts) in the afternoons. So it's pretty much the same, as far as daily routines and what you try to accomplish."
Maynor said the Pirates will add no FBS transfers to their core returnees and recruits.
"Too many of them were doing the wrong things or disrespecting women," he said. "I don't allow that in my program. Why would I bring in kids who had done those things when I'd have to let them go if they did it here?"
Maynor's teams went 45-6 in four years at WSSU, 29-2 in the CIAA. He stabilized a program that did an about-face from Division I transition back to Division II and flourished. He aims for similar success at HU, but is under no illusion that the climb will be easy.
"It doesn't matter if I'm at D-II, high school, D-I or the NFL," he said. "You've got to get your players to understand what you're trying to do, what defenses are trying to do to you and what we want to do when they do these things. The faster we can do that, the better off we'll be."
Fairbank can be reached at 757-247-4637