MSU’s new head coach
Tyler Hughes, Minot State’s new head football coach, has a five-year plan. But first, let him divulge his plan for the here and now.
He took this page out of NFL great Bill Parcells’ book:
“Parcells took the head job with the New York Jets in the late ’90s. In his introductory press conference, someone asked him, ‘What’s your five-year plan?’ He basically responded, and this is exactly how I feel: ‘When I go to the grocery store, I don’t buy green bananas. I don’t want to sit, look at them on my shelf, watch them ripe and let it take its course. What I do is I buy yellow bananas because I want to eat now.’ “
In an exclusive interview Wednesday with The Minot Daily News, Hughes laid out his own yellow-banana method for the Beavers, who went 2-9 last season and are 7-25 since beginning their transition from NAIA to Division II in 2011.
“I want our program to be very, very competitive this fall,” he said, stressing the immediacy. “I want us to have a winning record, I want us to play competitively.
“I don’t want to sit here and go, ‘Well we’ve got to go through all this transition and all this adjustment period and go through growing pains for the next three years.’ I want us to be a competitive team in our conference right away. I think we can do that.”
Hughes, 33, has had success everywhere he’s been.
In two seasons as head coach at Snow College, a junior college in Ephraim, Utah, he compiled a 20-4 record. Prior to that, he served seven years as Snow’s offensive coordinator, helping the Badgers win 70 of 83 games in that span. Last year, he assisted Urban Meyer at Ohio State, where the Buckeyes finished 12-2.
Hughes foresees a similar future for MSU.
“I want us to be a Division II national power,” he said. “I don’t want us to be good in the conference, I want us to be great nationally.”
MSU’s football program has been a part of national headlines throughout the past four months, but not for scoring touchdowns or winning titles.
After Paul Rudolph stepped down Jan. 2 to fill the offensive coordinator position at the University of North Dakota, Minot State Athletic Director Rick Hedberg offered former Minnesota State-Mankato coach Todd Hoffner on Jan. 30 a second chance in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
By now, the story’s been told and retold. Hoffner, who was fired by MSU-Mankato in May 2013 – six months after charges against him of possessing and producing child pornography were dropped – elected to be reinstated as the Mavericks’ coach after an arbitrator ruled on April 9 that he had been wrongfully fired.
That left Hedberg searching for his third head football coach in four months.
Hughes was a semifinalist the first time the position opened up. He had a phone interview with Hedberg, but only Hoffner, Wayne State defensive coordinator Mike Aldrich and Wisconsin-Stevens Point offensive coordinator Aaron Vlcko were selected as finalists.
Hoffner tried to hire Hughes this spring as his offensive coordinator. At the same time, Southern Virginia, a Division III program, offered Hughes its head coach job. He chose Southern Virginia.
“I wanted to be at Minot State, but the opportunity to be a head coach (was too great) and it was a little better situation in terms of finance for my family as a head coach,” Hughes said. “I kind of went back and forth on it.”
On April 16, the day after Hoffner announced his decision to leave MSU, Hughes received a call from Hedberg. Then another, and another. Then he had an interview on Skype with Minot State President David Fuller, Assistant Athletic Director Chad McNally and Hedberg.
By April 19, he was their guy.
“Long story short, I really wanted to be here form the beginning,” Hughes said. “And so it wasn’t a difficult decision of whether I wanted to be at Minot State. It was difficult because I was already somewhere (Southern Virginia). … I was very concerned about that.
“Ultimately, I decided this is where I want to be, this is the right place for my family and we’ve got to do it.”
Hughes, whose wife and four sons will move to Minot at the end of the school year, has employed a mostly hands-off approach since arriving.
Ten days ago, when he took the reins, Hughes inherited a full coaching staff and a team that felt somewhat betrayed by Hoffner, who left after 75 days.
Hughes called it a “unique, dynamic situation.”
“For me coming in at this stage, I’ve tried to let things flow as best as I possibly can while also trying to implement a few things along the way,” he said. “After this spring ball game ends, we’ll start laying it out the way things need to be done going forward.”
At 4 p.m. today at the Beaver Dam on the MSU campus, Hughes will make his first public appearance during a meet and greet with media, alumni and boosters.
At the Beavers’ Spring Game, at 7 p.m. Friday at Herb Parker Stadium, fans will get their first look at Hughes’ team.
Said defensive coordinator Byron Thomas, who served about a week as interim head coach: “Having Coach Hughes here, he’s a perfect fit for what we’ve been going through. Real personable, cares, real passionate about the sport and his players. I think our administration did a great job in the hiring process of tracking down Coach Hughes and letting him know the importance of him being here.”
Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.