By now most of you know or heard that Wyoming offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon was hired for a similar position at New Mexico State Friday.
He gave two reasons.
1) His previous relationship with current New Mexico State coach Doug Martin. Both were head coaches in the Mid-American conference back in the 2000s. Brandon said he has known Martin for 10 to 12 years.
2) Brandon received a two-year deal worth $180,000 a year. He was to make $160,000 at UW this year and his contract was up at the end of the year. Brandon told me that the multi-year deal and the salary was too good to pass up. This is Brandon’s 32nd year as a college coach, and said he “isn’t going to do this forever.”
Brandon is one of the classiest coaches I have dealt with in 19 years as a sports journalist. I thought he was the best assistant coach on the staff, and he did a great job with quarterback Brett Smith the last two years, and also with Jason Thompson as a true freshman last season and backup Colby Kirkegaard.
During signing day when head coach Dave Christensen announced newly hired Jason Gesser would coach quarterbacks and Brandon would continue to be coordinator and also coach running backs, I asked Brandon about it. He said it was Christensen’s decision and they would move forward with it. He didn’t seem giddy about it, but he was professional. He was still going to coordinate the offense and call plays. Christensen also said he would have a “heavy hand” in the offense this season. To me that was interesting. Not speculating if that had anything to do with Brandon leaving, but even if it was, a smart coach wouldn’t say that in public or to the media.
And, Brandon is a smart coach.
You also never want to burn any bridges in the coaching business. Not saying there were bridges to burn here, but that is never a smart idea in any business.
So, what does Christensen do from here? He won’t comment on it until Tuesday, as he is out of town until then.
He could go out and hire a coordinator.
He could do what he did with Gesser: find what he thinks is the best coach available, hire him and adjust the staff from there.
He could move Gesser to offensive coordinator and go hire a running backs coach. Gesser was Idaho’s running backs coach in 2011, its offensive coordinator in 2012 and interim coach the last four games after the school hired Robb Akey.
Christensen could take an even heavier hand in the offense and take over the play-calling duties himself. He was an offensive coordinator at Toledo and Missouri before he was hired as head coach at UW. That would be tough juggling the head coaching duties with coordinating an offense.
I don’t anticipate Christensen promoting someone currently on the staff as offensive coordinator.
Although Brandon coached running backs while he was offensive coordinator at Bowling Green in the early 2000s, it seems more ideal to have the offensive coordinator coach the quarterbacks. It is not a stead-fast rule, but most schools do it that way.
One thing that needs to be considered in all this is UW’s recruiting ties in Colorado. Marty English was the guy when Joe Glenn was the coach from 2003-08, and stayed on when Christensen was hired in 2009. He left for Colorado State after the 2011 season.
Brandon, who went to high school and college in Colorado, took over recruiting there and landed five solid recruits in this year’s class. UW can’t afford to lose its recruiting ties in Colorado.
You have to wonder what Smith is thinking right now. This was his position coach and coordinator since he got to UW. Brandon wasn’t the guy that recruited Smith, but it was obvious the two established a good rapport. Brandon said he had a good meeting with Smith when he told him the news, and described him as a “big-time talent.”
Hoping to talk to Smith sometime next week.
What do you think Christensen and UW should do?
For more on this story, see Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to www.wyosports.net.