University of Montana coach Bob Stitt
Offensive innovator Bob Stitt accepted the head coaching position at the University of Montana in December after serving as head coach at NCAA Division II Colorado School of Mines for 15 seasons. He led teams to a combined record of 108-62 at School of Mines, making him the most successful coach in program history.
A coach often wonders when the time is right to leave his current position for a more prominent head coaching position. How did you know it was time to leave Colorado School of Mines?
I never really worried about when it was time to leave. I really focused on the task at hand. We had a lot of different opportunities throughout the 15 years to leave. When you have a good thing, you can’t have the grass-is-greener syndrome. I knew if I left, it would be for a great thing, and this is the best FCS job in America.
You are credited with installing plays at Colorado School of Mines that had never been run before. How much patience do you need to show in your players when they’re struggling to pick up new concepts?
The players don’t know it’s never been done. We’re always watching how defenses are trying to stop us, and we want to stay ahead. We do trial and error in spring and fall camp. I’m not concerned with how others do it over time. We want to do things that work.
I’M NOT CONCERNED WITH HOW OTHERS DO IT OVER TIME. WE WANT TO DO THINGS THAT WORK.
– MONTANA COACH BOB STITT
How much time and energy do you invest in establishing team chemistry?
In high school, team chemistry is sometimes already in place because the kids played together in elementary or middle school. The more you can do off the field, the better. It’s the ultimate team sport, and you need trust. You can’t trust your teammates unless you know them. We’ll make our players talk to each other even if they don’t know each other yet.
We do mentor things with upperclassmen and young guys. During fall camp, any time we have a meal together, we make them sit together and visit. We had seniors draft a fantasy team of teammates, and we give them points for offseason workouts and other things. We try to get the seniors to organize something every weekend, whether it’s watching a March Madness game or attending a women’s game.
How do you build mental toughness?
We hold them accountable for everything they do. That leads to mental toughness. It’s the little things like standing the right way on the sideline or not putting their toes on the line during scrimmages.
Stitt’s teams are known for their unique offensive style and inflated statistics. Colorado School of Mines averaged more than 520 total yards and 380 passing yards per game last fall, best in all of D-II. The Diggers also averaged just a shade under 40 points per game.
Mines quarterback Justin Dvorak threw for 4,287 yards in 12 games as just a sophomore, 300 yards more than any other passer in the nation.
Stitt is credited with inventing the “fly sweep,” a high-percentage passing play similar to a screen pass. A wide receiver in motion crosses through the backfield as the ball is snapped before the quarterback pitches it forward to the receiver in motion. The screen pass frees up the receiver around the end on a sweep.
The play and Stitt gained notoriety after West Virginia piled up 70 points in the 2012 Orange Bowl utilizing the fly sweep.