Idaho State Director of Athletics Jeff Tingey and head football coach Rob Phenicie announced a verbal agreement to a three-year contract extension during last week’s Monday press conference.
Tingey and Phenicie have not worked out any of the details on a deal that would keep Phenicie in Pocatello through the 2021 season. The deal will not be official until it is taken to the Idaho State Board of Education for approval this winter.
“Coach Phenicie has got more important things to worry about and I would hate to be a distraction,” Tingey said. “We’ll let him deal with the team and the coaching and strategizing and all of those things.”
Phenicie signed a two-year, multi-tier deal in late March after former head coach Mike Kramer suddenly announced his retirement following two consecutive 2-9 seasons. The deal Phenicie signed in March consisted of a one-year deal as head coach through the 2017 season with a subsequent one-year deal as at least offensive coordinator worth $85,000 annually, making him the lowest paid head coach in the Big Sky Conference.
“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I told the President that I would do this for what I’m making now,” Phenicie said. “What’s more important to me is watching the kids smile and sing the fight song in the locker room, have a good time and enjoy football.”
With the short-term deal hanging over his head, Phenicie said he was not coaching out of fear this season.
“There’s nothing I can do to try to control that,” Phenicie said. “I try to control what I can control and that is what goes on the field on Saturday and what type of kids that we produced for the community.”
Although the deal is yet to be official, Phenicie commented how announcing the deal would help recruiting because teams can no longer tell potential recruits that Phenicie might not be coaching at Idaho State
According to the Idaho State Journal, Phenicie’s new deal could be worth as much as $200,000 per-year and could include bonuses such as Academic Progress Ratings or a bonus Kramer had in his contract that measures graduation rates.
Phenicie made $54,000 per-year as a wide receiver’s coach prior to leaving briefly for Northern Iowa and returning to Pocatello for his first head coaching gig.
“Puts a smile on my face because when you see his face he always cracks a joke or a movie quote,” said senior linebacker Mario Jenkins. “It’s always something different with him.”
Tingey said that conversations about extending Phenicie’s contract began a couple weeks ago and that there was not any particular moment where he knew it was time. Among the wins was a historic upset win over Nevada, the first victory over an FBS school since 2000.
Phenicie, who doubled the team’s wins from last year with a blowout win over Portland State last month, implemented a system that allowed more freedom with his assistant coaches.
With offensive coordinator Matt Troxell, Phenicie has guided one of the Big Sky’s most improved offenses to a 4-5 record. Last season, Idaho State ranked 12th out of 13 teams in scoring. This season, the Bengals rank seventh in that category in one of the best offensive conferences in the country.
“I think it’s awesome,” said sophomore wide receiver Mitch Gueller. “It’s really exciting for the future of our team and the future of our program.”
The players have spoken throughout the season about the energy Phenicie brings to practices and games along with a new attitude.
“Huge changes,” Jenkins said. “Everyday everybody gets better and then you see it every Saturday… New things at practice, new things in the locker room, new equipment and you see the change and for someone new to come in and you see that change it makes us feel differently.”
No assistants agreed to contract extensions and Tingey said he and Phenicie would discuss the matter after the season.
“They all have contracts,” Tingey said. “If we go down that road that is a conversation Rob and I will have.”
Troxell bolted for an offensive assistant position around the same time Phenicie left for Northern Iowa and returned shortly after Phenicie agreed to become head coach last spring. Troxell is on a one-year deal worth $70,000.
“I am how I am after we win a game, onto the next thing,” Phenicie said. “It’s something we don’t have to worry about. Get on to recruiting after the season.”