Former offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach, Rob Phenicie, who left briefly to coach receivers at Northern Iowa, was introduced as the Idaho State’s 27th head football coach last week just four days before the start of the spring footbal season.
Phenicie started coaching at Northern Iowa in the final week of March but had yet to sign a contract with the school, allowing him to come back to Pocatello to become ISU’s new head coach.
Phenicie said this is not the circumstances that he would have wanted to accept his first head coaching job, and that he originally left ISU for more money and the opportunity to coach at a higher caliber university that is historically a top 10 team in the FCS.
“In this profession, if you have the opportunity to move up, you take the opportunity,” Phenicie said.
Director of Athletics, Jeff Tingey, contacted Phenicie about the possibilities of becoming head coach days after Phenicie left for Northern Iowa.
“It was more, ‘If something were to happen,’ there was no definite ever given to me until it was done,” Phenicie said.
A full contract with details regarding length, pay and incentives has yet to be agreed upon between Phenicie and Tingey. Phenicie would not say if this was going to be a multi-year deal or a short-term fix, although Tingey did tweet that he does not want a “band-aid fix,” for the football program.
According to Phenicie, the program has not lost any recruits and the coaching staff is remaining untampered with until at least the end of spring ball.
“As far as we have discussed, I am the head coach and we are working out the contract details,” Phenicie said on his contract status.
For the last two seasons, Phenicie has been working with the receivers at ISU, allowing the program to avoid undergoing a complete overhaul as the Bengals head into spring practice.
“Part of the advantage to this is I’m not a new face, I’m not somebody they brought in,” Phenicie said. “I know all the coaches. I kinda have some ideas of what I want to do.”
Phenicie was the offensive coordinator at University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Montana and was co-offensive coordinator at Wyoming for one season, where he was also the recruiting coordinator.
“As far as a too much of a change it’s not too crazy,” said quarterback Tanner Gueller. “We are not throwing playbooks out the window and starting from scratch. Same stuff, maybe a few different ideas.”
Phenicie said that the last time he had talked to former head coach Mike Kramer was the night he accepted the Northern Iowa job, and his professional relationship with Kramer had nothing do with why he left ISU.
“He gave me a hug, said, ‘I love you man, you have to go do it,’” Phenicie said on his last encounter with Kramer.
The plan is to keep the foundation of what Kramer started over the last six seasons and build up to become contenders. This plan includes keeping up the high graduation rate and the team out of off-field issues.
“Are we upstart right now? Probably,” Phenicie said. “In 1,000 days we better be a contender, bordering on winner.”
Phenicie replaces one of the most successful coaches the Big Sky Conference has ever seen.
“He was one of the most successful and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with two of arguably the best coaches in the conference, Coach Kramer and Bobby Hauck,” Phenicie said. “I can’t speculate, I can just move forward with how we are going to do things. It’s a different perspective when you have a change like this, it is a different set of eyes and a different perspective on how things are run.”
Phenicie hopes to use Holt Arena’s unique dimensions to his advantage.
“It’s loud, it’s hot and we are at a little bit of altitude,” he said. “If you can get some energy going in the community and in the stadium, it’s a bear to play in here.”
He plans to accomplish this through fast, physical sound, headed by special teams coordinator David Fiefia and defensive coordinator Spencer Toone.
“We want our special teams to be special,” he explained. “I’d like to see our defense be a swarming, nasty type deal and an offense that is tough to defense. We want to get it to the point where Holt Arena becomes a hornet’s nest to play in.”