Wyoming coach Craig Bohl keeps coaching tree all in the family
LARAMIE, Wyo. -- There are plenty of reasons to leave your job.
Maybe a competing employer offers you a boatload of money, and you follow the dollar signs and signing bonuses right out the door. Maybe the next stop boasts a supreme reputation — a proud tradition of success that looks as good on a résumé as it does on a business card. Maybe the location lures you away.
Seven of Wyoming's newest staff members -- Brent Vigen, Steve Stanard, Kenni Burns, A.J. Cooper, Scott Fuchs, John Richardson and Gordie Haug -- certainly had legitimate opportunities to leave Fargo, North Dakota. But when your staff is your family, it isn't hard to stay.
On the Wyoming Cowboys' coaching staff -- and prior to that, at North Dakota State -- staff members didn't arrive by accident. Vigen, Wyoming's offensive coordinator, worked with Bohl for 11 years in Fargo before finally accompanying the head coach to Laramie. Cooper, Wyoming's defensive ends coach, and Richardson, the team's cornerbacks coach, both played for Bohl at North Dakota State before ultimately working up the ranks as assistant coaches.
Before they landed in Fargo, Fuchs, the offensive line coach, and Burns, UW's wide receivers coach, won a conference title together at Southern Illinois in 2008. Stanard, now Wyoming's defensive coordinator, actually played at Nebraska while Bohl was getting his start there as a graduate assistant. And later, he worked with David Brown, now Wyoming's safeties coach, at Ohio.
Long ago, Bohl adopted a "hire who you know, trust who you hire" mentality. The previous relationships between staff members are a necessity, rather than a happy coincidence. Though Bohl stood alone at a podium the day he was introduced to the media and public, Wyoming wasn't simply hiring a coach.
It was hiring the whole family, from Bohl on down.
"It certainly makes it easier when there's a group of us, whether it's on offense or defense or special teams, that understands what we've done in the past, who we are and what's worked well," Cooper said.
"Some of us have said that we got lucky that for our first move, we all did it together."
And like all families, Bohl's coaching staff features a wide assortment of characters. Their differences, perhaps even more than their similarities, are what makes the situation work.
"Scott [Fuchs] and Kenni [Burns] and I, we're all a little bit different," Vigen said. "But I think our personalities balance each other out quite a bit. What I figured out a few years back is that I don't need a lot of guys that are just like me. You want different personalities, different ways of thinking.
"If everybody just agrees with you, that's not what you want."
In total, Bohl brought seven of his 11 North Dakota State assistants with him from Fargo to Laramie. Immediately, they each understood what their role was, and what needed to be accomplished.
Their common success -- three consecutive FCS national titles -- carried with it an instant belief that has transferred from one program to the next.
"You don't have to recreate that culture," Vigen said.
As in families, some things no longer need to be spoken; they are simply understood. The staff members share a common language: whether it be football terminology, inside jokes or shared experiences from a past employer.
But as they undertake a new chapter with familiar sidekicks, Bohl makes it perfectly clear:
His coaching staff -- his family -- is also ready to expand.
"I think it's important that the majority of those men have worked with us," Bohl said. "But I think it's also important that we re-hired [defensive tackles coach] Pete Kaligis to have a guy that was really familiar with where the program was at, and we brought in David Brown so he can give us some insight on the lay of the land in the Mountain West. [Running backs coach] Mike Bath is also a terrific coach.
"We're really pleased with our coaching staff. But without question, those guys that were with us for 11 years, they make a big difference."