Former Idaho State head football coach Mike Kramer retired last Thursday following a meeting, which according to Athletic Director Jeff Tingey, was held with intention of improving the football program.
Tingey said that if Kramer had not retired, he would no longer be coaching football at ISU.
“I had open possibilities of what could and could not happen,” Tingey said at a press conference last Thursday that Kramer did not attend. “A change in the program and a change in the leadership was at the forefront of that meeting.”
Former offensive coordinator Rob Phenicie, who left the university for a coaching position at Northern Iowa last week, will become the Bengals’ new head coach while remaining on as offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach.
ISU has agreed to pay out the rest of Kramer’s contract, which ends in January of 2018 despite the school’s finical troubles. Kramer has a base of about $154,000 and the retirement means Kramer can accept a job at another university for the upcoming season.
“That’s a decision that I made with him,” Tingey said on paying out Kramer’s contract. “That’s a common standard in the industry and we stuck to that.”
Tingey said that the school has lost no assistant coaches and no players have de-committed since February’s National Signing Day.
Tingey said that the conversation about Phenicie becoming the new head coach began early in the week and he was formally introduced as the Bengals’ 26th head football coach Monday afternoon.
“I reached out to [Rob] with some others, did some interviews and had some discussions to see if he had interest in returning and to see if he was right for us with the idea that he had stepped away for a little bit,” Tingey said.
Kramer served six seasons with the Bengals and held an overall record of 18-50 with one winning season. According to Tingey, the program had become stagnate, which is something he wants to avoid.
“We are always looking for improvement,” he said adding, that happenings within the program and leadership which led to Thursday’s events.
“We knew we needed a change of direction of our football program,” Tingey said. “We knew we needed to improve and to some extent we needed some better leadership with our football program as it has to do with our student-athletes, their welfare, our assistant coaches and the overall student body of the university.”
Kramer led ISU to its first winning record in over a decade in 2014 and was awarded Big Sky Coach of the Year following the season, making him the second coach in Division I history to win a Conference Coach of the Year award at three different schools.
Kramer also helped ISU out of NCAA penalties and bettered the program’s image in the community.
“We were in academic penalties because of very low APR scores,” Tingey said. “Our graduation rates were low… Prior to coach Kramer, on weekends, it was common for me to get calls from the Pocatello Police saying, ‘Please help us come break up this party.’ I haven’t received one of those since hiring coach Kramer.”
Since the 2014 season, ISU has won four games, beating two Division I schools in 22 games. Phenicie was recently promoted to offensive coordinator after Matt Troxell left for an offensive assistant position at Montana in January, where he currently coaches inside receivers.
Phenicie served five seasons at UNLV where he was the offensive coordinator for three of those seasons. He also served as offensive coordinator at Montana from 2003-09 and was the receivers’ coach and recruiting coordinator at Wyoming from 2000-02.
“He brings a lot of great experience, something we find very valuable,” Tingey said. “Taking the reins of our offense and our football team is something we are excited for.”