Sometime over the next few weeks, life as he knows it will return to normal for UNC Charlotte football coach Brad Lambert.
It has been two years since Lambert last coached a college football game. Since being hired in March 2011 to be the 49ers' first coach, he has spent most of his time preparing a program for its initial season, which begins Aug. 31, 2013, in UNC Charlotte's new on-campus stadium.
But now, with the 2012 college football season over for most schools, Lambert is like any other coach getting ready for next season.
It's real normal for us now, said Lambert, 47, a career assistant coach who came to Charlotte after 10 seasons at Wake Forest, where he was defensive coordinator. With the bowl season coming to a close, we're just like the rest of them, stepping back into it.
So the rhythms of UNC Charlotte's football program now fall in line with the rest of the sport. The 49ers already have 75 players on campus (they practiced last fall without having games to play), most of them freshmen.
After signing a second recruiting class in February, the 49ers will begin spring practice in mid-March, with a spring intra-squad game scheduled for April 20. From there, The season opener against Campbell University will not be far off.
Directing it all will be Lambert, whose energies will shifted from starting a program to winning actual games. The 49ers will play their first two seasons as an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) independent. They will then move up to the sport's highest level in 2015 the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly I-A), where they will play in Conference USA.
He's at a different place now than he was last year, said 49ers athletics director Judy Rose. His personality will not change, but he will be more focused, maybe not as lighthearted.
Put it this way: When we hired Brad, somebody mentioned how personable and outgoing he was, and that all our coaches should be that way. I laughed and said, Check him out a year from now.'.
Lambert understands how different things will be. The past two falls were the first two since he was a boy growing up in rural Kansas where he didn't play or coach.
Those are the things I haven't thought about in two years, he said. To be in those situations: If it's third-and-four at the 45. What play do you call? What do you do if you don't make a first down?
I can't wait to get back out there.