The Boise State football team's revolving door at offensive coordinator has taken another turn.
Former Broncos quarterback Mike Sanford, who impressed in his first year as a coordinator in 2014, will leave the program for a position on the Notre Dame coaching staff, sources told the Idaho Statesman on Wednesday.
The departure also was reported by 247Sports.com and FoxSports.com. Neither school announced the move.
Sanford helped the Broncos to a 12-2 record, Mountain West and Fiesta Bowl championships and a No. 9 ranking in scoring (39.7 points per game). He also coached senior quarterback Grant Hedrick, who led the nation with a 70.8 completion percentage.
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"Can't fault a man for wanting to take an opportunity," Boise State sophomore quarterback Tommy Stuart tweeted Wednesday evening without mentioning Sanford. "Thank you for everything you've done for me, this team and this city #NextManUp."
Second-year coach Bryan Harsin, who immediately selected Sanford as his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach when he got the job, said last week he expected to retain his entire staff.
Now he needs to fill the highest-profile position.
For 13 years, from 1998 to 2010, the Boise State offense was run by three men with similar philosophies and strong connections to each other - Dirk Koetter (1998-2000, when he was head coach), Chris Petersen (2001-05) and Harsin (2006-10).
But the Broncos' offensive success and pizazz have attracted many suitors over the years. Koetter capitalized by becoming the head coach at Arizona State, Petersen by becoming the head coach at Boise State and Harsin by becoming the co-offensive coordinator at Texas.
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease (2011) left for Florida and Robert Prince (2012-13) wasn't retained when Harsin returned to Boise State as head coach.
The turnover leaves the offense in limbo less than four weeks before a quarterback derby begins in spring ball with only one participant who has played in a major college game, sophomore Ryan Finley.
The rest of the scholarship quarterbacks were hand-picked by Sanford in his first three months on the job - Stuart, a junior college transfer, and redshirt freshman Alex Ogle didn't play last year, and true freshman Brett Rypien arrived last month as an early high school graduate.
The only member of Harsin's offensive staff with coordinator experience is tight ends coach Eliah Drinkwitz, who was the co-offensive coordinator and playcaller for Harsin in 2013 at Arkansas State. He only has three years as a full-time assistant at the college level and doesn't have experience coaching college quarterbacks. Harsin called plays himself for part of the season at Arkansas State.
Sanford, who interviewed with Ohio State last month but determined the job wasn't the right fit, will provide a spark to a Notre Dame staff in transition. Coach Brian Kelly (45-20 in five seasons at Notre Dame) has lost three assistants this winter. Plus, offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock - who is still on staff - fought prostate cancer during his debut season in 2014.
One of the assistants who left, running backs coach Tony Alford, was a renowned recruiter. Sanford, who has experience recruiting nationwide and at academically challenging schools like Stanford and Yale, fills a need there, too.
For Sanford, the job pushes him toward his ultimate goal of becoming a head coach. It also puts him within a 3›-hour drive of his dad, who is the head coach at Indiana State.
Sanford, 33, was a ball boy at Notre Dame in 1997-98 when his dad was an assistant coach for the Irish. He has two young children, including a newborn.
Harsin tried unsuccessfully to hire Sanford in 2013 at Arkansas State. Sanford, who was at Stanford, expressed immediate interest when it was clear Harsin could end up at Boise State.
"Coming back to Boise State was definitely a goal of mine," Sanford said last summer. "That's always been something I wanted to be a part of because of how much it impacted me in the formative years and really led to me going into the coaching profession."
But Sanford has lived a vagabond life - first as a coach's son and now as a coach. This will be the third time he has left a school after one year, with Boise State joining Yale and Western Kentucky. Three years (at Stanford) is his longest stay.
"My wife thinks I'm crazy, but every place I've lived, I thought it was the greatest place in America at that time," he said last year. "There's a sort of optimism about who I am and I think it comes from my dad and my mom. And from me having to adapt to so many situations growing up."
Boise State's offensive players know the feeling.
Can't fault a man for wanting to take an opportunity. Thank you for everything you've done for me, this team and this city #NextManUp— Tommy stuart (@tommystuart03) February 12, 2015
Mike Sanford file
Hometown: Seal Beach, Calif.
Playing career: Backup quarterback at Boise State (2000-04). He was 11-for-21 for 173 yards with one interception as a senior. He threw his only touchdown pass as a junior.
Coaching career: UNLV graduate assistant (2005-06), Stanford offensive assistant (2007-08), Yale tight ends/fullbacks coach and recruiting coordinator (2009), Western Kentucky quarterbacks coach and pass game coordinator (2010), Stanford running backs coach (2011), Stanford running backs coach and recruiting coordinator (2012), Stanford quarterbacks and wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator (2013), Boise State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach (2014)
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Boise State (2005)
Family: Wife, Anne-Marie; daughter, Peyton; son, Gunnar (newborn)
Did you know? Sanford called the pass plays at Western Kentucky. Another coach called the run plays. The head coach decided if it would be a run or pass play. Stanford uses the same committee system.
Also Wednesday, Boise State added defensive end Jabril Frazier to the roster. Frazier, a highly touted recruit, was on campus but academically ineligible to participate in team activities in the fall. He is a redshirt freshman with four years to play four seasons.
Coach Bryan Harsin said in December that Frazier had met all the requirements to join the team officially.
“He’s done a very nice job,” Harsin said. “He’s been able to lift on his own. You guys don’t get to see him every day. He’s a fantastic person. I like him. Everybody he’s been around has said good things about him. He’s taken care of his academics. He looks fantastic. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. I know it’s killing him not to be a part of it. We expect him to be ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”
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