I have a weakness for stories like how Mike Gundy went out and hired his current offensive coordinator.
When Gundy began searching for an offensive coordinator after the 2012 season, he sought two qualities: talent and anonymity. He was tired of losing assistants.
Todd Monken had left for the Southern Miss head-coaching job after two record-setting seasons with Oklahoma State. Monken followed Dana Holgorsen, who spent the 2010 season as the Pokes’ OC before taking the West Virginia job. Since becoming Oklahoma State’s coach in 2005, Gundy had only one offensive coordinator last longer than two years — Larry Fedora logged three seasons before becoming head coach at Southern Miss.
“I said, ‘Forget this. I’m going to go find somebody that nobody will want for a while,'” Gundy said. “And I got lucky, and it worked out great for us, and it solved and/or ended the issue I was concerned about.”
Gundy went online and looked up offenses that excelled both with rushing and passing numbers. He then narrowed the search to no-huddle, tempo-based offenses similar to Oklahoma State’s. Next, he found coordinators who also coached quarterbacks. The last step, the trickiest, was identifying lesser-known coaches who might stick around even after successful seasons.
Starting at the FBS level, Gundy worked his way to Shippensburg University, a Division II program in south central Pennsylvania. Under Yurcich, Shippensburg had led Division II in offense (529.2 yards per game) and ranked second in scoring (46.9 PPG) in 2012, a year after shattering team records for scoring and yards.
Gundy had numbers but no video, and tracking down the person who handled Shippensburg’s film wasn’t easy. “He was a fireman and [was] teaching class,” Gundy recalled. Oklahoma State eventually got three games sent its way as part of a film exchange, and Gundy liked what he saw.
Mainly because it takes a certain amount of balls that tends to be lacking in the majority of coaching hires we see these days.
After Oklahoma State’s success, will other coaches accept the Mike Gundy Coordinator-Finding Challenge? Gundy doesn’t think so.
“Let me build a scenario for you,” Gundy said. “It’s the AD that hires everybody’s favorite as the next head coach, because then, if the guy doesn’t make it, he can say, ‘Well, everybody wanted him. He was the logical choice, right?’ You’re not going to see very many coaches that have a gut feeling on a guy and hire a guy at Shippensburg, and have the fans or the administration patronizing you because you hired some guy [and] everybody thought you lost your mind.
“Most coaches aren’t going to be like that.”
Also, because this is one of the best job acceptance stories I’ve ever read.
Gundy finally connected with the Raiders’ offensive coordinator and arranged a meeting at a hotel near where he would be recruiting. On a cold, snowy day early in 2013, the two men met and talked ball for three hours. Gundy did some vetting, talking with Shippensburg coach Mark Maciejewski, but knew he had his man.
“That doesn’t happen every day,” Maciejewski said. “It was a unique situation and very fortunate for him. At first, it was like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ But then, as time goes on, you sit back and you see there’s a reason [Gundy] wanted him.”
The next day, Gundy called.
“Mike, here’s the deal,” he told Yurcich. “I’m going to offer you the job, and I have a three-year contract that pays $400,000 a year.”
Silence. Three seconds, four, five, six … Gundy worried that Yurcich had been caught in a snowstorm.
“Are you there?” he asked.
“Well, do you need to talk to your wife?”
“I don’t need to talk to anybody.”
Yurcich at the time was making $52,500 a year at Shippensburg. No kidding he didn’t need to talk to anyone.