When Idaho State won its lone National Championship in 1981, two current NFL coaches, Marvin Lewis and Dirk Koetter, were on the staff and team. ISU is one of three institutions in the entire country that has two NFL coaches as alums, the other two are Pacific University and the University of Southern California.
Four different Power Five head coaches also have roots in Pocatello, while two different Power Five coordinators have stemmed from ISU.
Marvin Lewis: Head Coach, Cincinnati Bengals (1981-1984)
Lewis served as a graduate assistant at ISU before becoming the linebacker coach for four seasons (‘81- ‘84). During his time at ISU, the Bengals won a national championship.
After ISU, Lewis served as the assistant coach at Long Beach State University from 1985-1986 before moving to the University of New Mexico (‘87-‘89) and the University of Pittsburgh (‘90-‘92).
In 1992, Lewis was hired as the linebacker coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX. As the Defensive Coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens in 1996, he served six seasons (‘96-‘01) and beat the New York Giants 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV.
His defense allowed 165 yards per-game, the lowest total in the NFL that season. That led to Lewis becoming the ninth coach in Cincinnati Bengals history. Midway through the 2011 season, Lewis won his 65th game, surpassing Sam Whyte as the winningest coach in Bengals history.
Dirk Koetter: Head Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1978-1981)
Koetter was the head coach at Highland High School and played at ISU during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Koetter coached at San Francisco State, UTEP, Missouri, Boston College and Oregon and was the head coach at Boise State for three seasons before moving on to Arizona State.
Koetter served as the offensive coordinator for both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Atlanta Falcons and was hired by the Buccaneers after the firing of Lovie Smith. This is Koetter’s first NFL head coaching job.
Kyle Whittingham: Head Coach, Utah (1988-1993)
After a stint at ISU from 1988-1993, Kyle Whittingham joined the Utah staff as a defensive line coach under his father Fred Whittingham.
Whittingham kept progressing through the ranks at Utah until 2004 when the Utes won the Fiesta Bowl to cap off a perfect 12-0 season behind Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, Alex Smith.
When Urban Meyer left for Florida, it left the coaching job wide open and Whittingham took it.
During his career, Whittingham has won a Mountain West Conference championship (2008), a Mountain West Coach of the Year award (2008) and has been the head man during Utah’s entire tenure as a Pac-12 school. Whittingham’s Utes are currently 7-2 and ranked 13th in the AP top 25.
Gary Anderson: Head Coach, Oregon State (1992-1993)
After coaching at ISU from 1992-1993, Anderson served under Whittingham as the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Utah from 2005-2008.
Anderson was a 2008 finalist for the Broyles award which led him to coaching gigs at Utah State and Wisconsin where he was the head coach from 2013-2014.
On December 10, 2014 Anderson replaces Mike Riley after he bolted to Nebraska, where he remains to this day.
Derek Mason: Head Coach, Vanderbilt (1997-1998)
After his playing career ended, Mason coached at Mesa Community College, Weber State, Bucknell, Utah, St. Mary’s, New Mexico State and Ohio.
From 2007-2009, Mason was the defensive backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings where he was then hired as the defensive backs coach under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. In 2012, he was promoted to defensive coordinator and was a Broyles Award Finalist. On January 17, 2014, Mason received his first head coaching job at Vanderbilt University.
James Franklin: Head Coach, Penn State (1999)
A former wide receiver coach for ISU in 1999, Franklin was the Maryland wide receivers coach and even served internships for the Dolphins, Eagles and Vikings. In 2005, Franklin left Maryland to become the wide receivers coach for the Green Bay Packers.
He coached and Kansas State, and was eventually hired to be the head coach at Vanderbilt. Franklin was named the head coach at Penn State in 2014.
Bruce Barnum: Head Coach, Portland State (1998-2006)
After a stint in the coast guard, Barnum joined the ISU staff where he served as the offensive line coach from 1998 to 1999. After the 1999 season, new head coach Tom Walsh moved Barnum to the defensive line coach. In 2010, Barnum joined Nigel Burton’s staff at Portland State University as the offensive coordinator.
After a stint as the interim coach, on December 18, 2014 Barnum was officially named the permanent head coach. During the 2015 season, Barnum led Portland State to a 9-3 record and its first playoff appearance in 15 years.
Andy Ludwig: Offensive Coordinator, Vanderbilt (1989-1991)
After coaching at ISU from 1989-1991, Ludwig coached for eight different schools. In 1992, Ludwig served as a graduate assistant and had stints at Augustana College, Boise State, Cal Polytechnic State, Fresno State and Oregon.
After being hired back to the Utah staff, Ludwig accepted an offensive coordinator position at Kansas State in 2009. Ludwig made stops California, San Diego State and Wisconsin before finding a home though on Vanderbilt’s staff under Derek Mason in 2015.
Lance Anderson: Defensive Coordinator, Stanford (1997-1998)
A native of Rupert, Idaho, Anderson began his coaching career at ISU where he spent two season (‘97- ‘98). He spent time at Utah State, St. Mary’s, Bucknell and San Diego where he coached under Jim Harbaugh. Anderson was hired in 2007 as the defensive coordinator for the Cardinals where he remains to this day.