LUKE’S BEAT: IS IT A COACHING PROBLEM OR A CULTURE PROBLEM?

Lucas Gebhart

Sports Editor

Idaho State has won four football games in the last two seasons, two of which were to Division II schools, and the team has had two winning seasons since 2003.

Stats like that indicate that something needs to change so Idaho State can finally start winning football games on Saturday afternoons and I think it’s a much deeper issue than who is calling the shots on the sideline.

Former head coach Mike Kramer is one of two head coaches in Division I history to have won a conference Coach of the Year award at three different schools and you can say what you want about Kramer, but the man won everywhere he went except for Idaho State.

I don’t think the problem with the football program was Kramer.

In six seasons at Eastern Washington, Kramer had three winning seasons, one conference championship and one playoff appearance. After two seasons to rebuild the program, he finished no lower than fifth in the conference.

In seven season at Montana State, Kramer had five winning seasons, won three conference championships with three playoff appearances, including a quarterfinals appearance in his final year in Bozeman. The only two seasons the Bobcats weren’t contenders for a conference crowd was Kramer’s first two seasons.

In six seasons at Idaho State, Kramer had one winning season with no playoff appearances and won no more than three games in five of his six seasons. In Kramer’s six years, ISU won 10 conference games and six of them came in 2014.

That tells me that the problem with the ISU football program isn’t the head coach, it’s the culture.

A coaching change is the first step in changing the culture of a losing football program, but I’m not sure that what is basically, but not technically, an in-house hire is the best way to go about that.

Phenicie served as the wide receiver’s coach for the final two seasons under Kramer and is technically the former offensive coordinator, even though he has yet to call an offensive play from the Bengal sideline.

Phenicie was promoted after Matt Troxel left ISU to coach receivers at Montana. Prior to Troxel leaving, former offensive coordinator Sheldon Cross left to coach high school football in Washington.

Before he was hired to be ISU’s head coach, Phenicie left an offensive coordinator position at ISU to coach receivers at Northern Iowa.

“It was an opportunity,” Phenicie said on leaving ISU for Northern Iowa. “In this profession, if you have the opportunity to move up, you do it.”

Phenicie said he was set to coach receivers at Northern Iowa, meaning that, at Northern Iowa, another FCS school, a receiver’s coach is a better coaching opportunity than an offensive coordinator at ISU.

Three offensive coordinators in the last year-and-a-half have left ISU to take a position that is lower on the coaching totem pole at a different school.

That’s a problem. This is a problem that will plague the ISU football program for years to come.

This is not an easy fix. It takes years to rebuild collegiate athletic programs because there is no NCAA draft. Every player that suits up in a Bengal uniform chooses to do so, and why would a premiere high school athlete pick a losing ISU football program that it has become known as and not Montana, Eastern Washington or Weber State?

It is crucial that ISU turns this thing around, because some students pick where they want to go to school based on how good the athletic teams are.

It may not be the only factor, but it is a factor for anybody who likes sports because athletics is an entertainment source on a college campus for that demographic.

Mark my word, as soon as the football team starts winning games, ISU will no longer be a small, underfunded, public university.

Don’t believe me? Look at any university and how much it’s enrollment, and overall school funding increases when a football program starts winning.

You only need to look about three hours west of here to find a good example.

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3 Comments on "LUKE’S BEAT: IS IT A COACHING PROBLEM OR A CULTURE PROBLEM?"

  1. ISU needs to wake up and smell the coffee! Isu has higher academic requirements for their athletes compared to the rest of the BIg Sky. There are people in the athletic department who do not want the teams to succeed. They would rather have a cushy job than actually work hard.

  2. ISU Athletics has been handcuffed with smaller non-competitive athletic budgets for years. You can’t recruit, retain, and compete consistently in the BigSky Conference without proper/competitive funding. The State of Idaho has legislation that is handcuffing all three university’s budgets. BSU gets gets away with it because of monstrous outside donor sources.
    Stat: in the past 30 years (1986-2016), every single head football coach was fired from ISU and not one left with more wins than losses during their tenure. That’s very clearly a cultural issue.

  3. Great write up and very valid points. Please keep addressing this. Losing culture does keep the University we love down.

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