For the second time in three seasons BYU is in search of a new guiding light on offense. With the release of Ty Detmer from the offensive coordinator position there has been much speculation as to who could be the next play caller for the Cougars. Every day until BYU names a new offensive coordinator Vanquish The Foe will be profiling a specific candidate and what makes them right (or wrong) for the position. Today we take a look at former Montana head coach Bob Stitt
Within minutes of BYU announcing that Ty Detmer would no longer be the offensive coordinator, reporters and fans were already drafting up their lists of who would take his place.
On just about every list there were a lot of familiar names. There were the BYU alumni that had found success as position coaches at a prominent P5 programs or as coordinators of a high-flying offense at the FCS level. There were also the LDS coaches that never played for BYU but would be a good fit because of their understanding of the culture. Then of course there were the retreads, coaches that had been at BYU before and for some reason people forgot why they were not asked back.
Then there was Bob Stitt.
Quite a few outlets (this one included) mentioned the former Montana head coach as a possible candidate to inject life back into the BYU offense. But why? He’s not LDS and he’s never coached at BYU or the typical feeder schools (Southern Utah, Weber State, Snow College, etc.) that usually lead coaches to Provo. He doesn’t have much (if any) connection to the members of the current coaching staff, and he was just fired from his last job.
Stitt definitely isn’t a conventional choice for BYU, but he’s being mentioned as a candidate because he’s known as one of the most innovative offensive minds in all of college football.
His coaching career started at very humble beginnings (ever heard of Doane College?), but Bob Stitt burst onto the national scene in 2012, thanks to Dana Holgerson and the West Virginia Mountaineers. In what is considered to be the most impressive offensive performance in Orange Bowl history, West Virginia dropped an unglody number of points on the Clemson Tigers in their 70-33 victory. The Mountaineers set or tied eight bowl game records with their outburst.
One of the plays that Clemson couldn’t stop to save their life was a fly sweep where the quarterback would chest-pass the ball to a wide receiver running in motion. After the game a sideline reporter asked Holgerson about the play and he gave credit to Bob Stitt for the unique play.
This shout-out on national television increased his celebrity among college football fanatics, prompting fans on Twitter to use the hashtag #StittHappens to praise the coach. It also turned a lot of attention to Stitt’s program in Golden, Colorado that was one of the most successful turnaround stories in college football history.
In 2000, Stitt, then an offensive coordinator at Harvard, was hired by Colorado School of the Mines to take over as the head coach. Before his arrival the Orediggers were one of the worst football teams in Division II football and had been for nearly 100 years. In the 1999 season, they scored a total of 48 points the entire season, which was a record low for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (a conference that BYU used to be a member of back from 1918-1938). Two years later, Stitt had the Orediggers averaging 42 points a game. In his 14 seasons at Colorado School of the Mines, the team had a combined record of 108-62, including three conference titles and only one losing season.
It should also be noted that Stitt accomplished this all while dealing with some of the highest academic standards in college sports. The Colorado School of the Mines is an engineering school where the students can only chose one major, engineering. While most college teams can stash their players in athlete friendly majors like recreation management or communications, Stitt had to recruit smart players that excelled in math and science. On average their players scored a 29 (out of 36) on the math portion of the ACT. Having that kind of success with those limitations should peak the interest of BYU fans.
What might scare away some is the fact that he was just fired from his post as head coach at Montana, a school with a proud FCS football tradition. Stitt started his tenure off with a bang, upsetting #1 North Dakota State led by Carson Wentz. However, after that first season the Grizzlies failed to make the playoffs going 6-5 in 2016 and 7-4 in 2017.
Why didn’t things work in Missoula for Stitt? Some say that his “offense-first” approach wasn’t a good fit for Montana, a program that had traditionally prided itself on defense. It was also a difficult time to take over because the football program had just been mired in scandal. In June of 2013, the football program was put on probation for three years and had their scholarships reduced after an 18-month investigation revealed that boosters had been providing bail money and legal representation to football players. This came on the heels of a federal investigation to how the school handled reports of sexual assault and harassment. From an outside perspective, the fact that Stitt still had three winning seasons might seem impressive, but the folks at Montana apparently had higher expectations.
Now that Stitt is a free agent, this might be the perfect time for him to make the jump to the FBS level. He has been a head coach for 17 seasons and has shown that he has a great mind for offense. Instead of searching for another head coaching job, he could elevate his status by focusing on what he knows best and leaving the defense to someone else. Moving to Provo wouldn’t be much of an adjustment after living in Golden and Missoula, but he would have to familiarize himself the Honor Code and the challenges it brings in recruiting.
In the end if BYU wants an out-of-the-box hire that would bring some new blood and fresh thinking to the program, then they would be served well by making #StittHappen.