Wyoming offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon has been hired to the same position at New Mexico State, leaving UW without one of its top coaches.
The news comes just two days after UW hosted a National Signing Day event in which Wyoming coach Dave Christensen told fans and media that former Idaho interim head coach Jason Gesser had been hired as his new quarterbacks coach — a position Brandon previously held along with his offensive coordinator title. Brandon, Christensen said, would shift to coach running backs for the Cowboys while still being the team’s offensive coordinator.
When asked about the shuffling, Brandon replied: “Coach Christensen made that decision. That’s a good question for him.”
Reached Friday afternoon by the Star-Tribune, Brandon said that New Mexico State had approached him shortly after the hiring of current coach Doug Martin, who is a longtime friend of his.
New Mexico State then returned with an offer that Brandon said made the decision a no-brainer. He didn’t disclose the specifics of his salary, but said it was a statement that New Mexico State “means business.”
“It was what is best for me and my family,” Brandon said.
Brandon shot down the notion that Wyoming’s hiring of Gesser as the Cowboys’ new quarterback coach factored into his decision. He said his mind had been made up to go to New Mexico State when Gesser was announced as a member of Wyoming’s staff on Wednesday. Brandon informed Christensen of his final decision Friday morning.
Martin beamed about the addition of Brandon, one of the most-prominent offensive coaches in college football, in a release from New Mexico State.
“Gregg [Brandon] brings a wealth of experience that is hard to find at this level, while being one of only two people I trust to hand over the play calling for this offense,” Martin said. “Obviously having head coaching experience at the Division I level at Bowling Green University gives him a lot of experiences that will be very valuable to this program. I think the biggest thing that Aggie fans need to know is that Gregg Brandon wanted to be here at New Mexico State.”
Brandon was also quoted:
“When Doug [Martin] was up for the job, we spoke by phone and we were both excited for him to have the opportunity to be the next head coach at New Mexico State,” Brandon said. “I’ve known Doug for over 10 years now from my days at Bowling Green and his days at Kent State. Knowing Doug and the kind of person he is was the No. 1 thing for me when considering New Mexico State. I had no reservations in coming down and working with Doug, his staff and this football team to try and put a competitive team on the field every week. Doug also told me that the administration is prepared to step up and provide those resources needed to be a competitive football team.”
Brandon’s departure from Laramie comes after two seasons spent running the UW offense and coaching its quarterbacks. His star pupil, Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith, has thrived under Brandon. He finished the season 16th in total offense (308 yards per game) and 11th in passing efficiency. He threw 27 touchdowns in an injury-shortened season.
Under Brandon, Wyoming’s scoring production has soared. UW scored an average of 26.1 points per game in 2011 and 26.8 last year. The season before Brandon arrived, the Cowboys scored 19.2 points a game.
Brandon told the Star-Tribune he enjoyed his time in Laramie, and he spoke specifically about saying goodbye to Smith — a player with whom he maintained a close relationship.
“I regret leaving Brett, especially with the progress we had made,” Brandon said.
He said he has spoken with Smith about his departure.
“Brett will be fine,” Brandon said. “He understands the business.”
Brandon’s contract with the Cowboys ran through Dec. 31 of 2013. It paid an annual base salary of $160,008 with performance-based bonuses. He received several smaller team-performance bonuses as well.
A Wyoming athletics spokesman said Friday evening that Christensen was out of the office and would comment on Brandon’s departure Tuesday. Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman, who usually refrains from commenting on decisions made by the school’s head coaches, did not immediately return a phone call from the Star-Tribune.
It is not yet known if Wyoming will pursue an outside hire for the offensive coordinator position, or promote someone already on staff.
Gesser is an obvious option, though. The 33-year--old was Idaho’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before stepping into the interim head coaching spot when former Vandals coach Robb Akey was fired last season. Gesser was also a finalist for the Idaho head coaching job, a position that was given to Paul Petrino in December.