The Jacks’ 31st head football coach applauds daily wins while keeping his eye on the championship.
Northern Arizona University’s President José Luis Cruz Rivera and Intercollegiate Athletics Vice President Mike Marlow have formally introduced Brian Wright as the school’s 31st head football coach.
Wright joins NAU’s program after spending four years at Division II Pittsburg State University in Kansas. There, he led the Gorillas to a 23-3 record across two seasons, winning consecutive Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) titles. He also was named the 2022 MIAA Conference Coach of the Year.
Marlow spoke about the search to find a candidate with head coaching experience, a play-calling resume and experience at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level.
“And then the bonus at the end of the day, beyond just the FCS experience, was the fact that he has coached in this league [Big Sky Conference]. That was very important,” Marlow said in early December. “So, all of those things and others kept coach Wright as our top candidate at the beginning, our top candidate throughout, and our top candidate here today.”
Wright spent time as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at Toledo and Florida Atlantic. He went 5-0 as an interim head coach at Florida Atlantic in 2013. Wright also coached at Montana State and Youngstown State of the FCS.
As the offensive coordinator at Montana State for two seasons, he led the Bobcats to consecutive Big Sky Championship titles in 2010 and 2011. The Bobcats only had one loss in 2010; a loss that happened to be in the Walkup Skydome against the Lumberjacks, 34-7.
After that game in 2010, the city of Flagstaff left an impression on Wright.
“I remember getting on our team bus and driving out of here and saying, ‘what a special place this could be,’” he said.
Arizona Varsity lead football analyst Cody Cameron reports on rankings and recruiting across Arizona. He said it is important for Wright and his staff to make an immediate impact by recruiting new players.
“That staff has to act really quickly to put a good recruiting class together,” Cameron explained.
Wright said he intends to urgently begin recruiting across high schools and he looks to fill gaps in the roster with portal transfers, creating a mix of both recruiting tools.
“When you lose high school players from your own program, like you do now in college football, the transfer portal is important. We will use both models. We’re going to recruit high school players, get the very best ones in here we can, develop them, retain them, keep them here. But also there’s going to be needs and things we have to address, whether it’s right now or in a year or two, by older players,” Wright said.
The Lumberjacks finished the 2023 season with a record 5-6 overall. The team has not had a winning record since 2017. However, Wright said he wants to focus on the inner scoreboard, explaining that the inner scoreboard counts small, daily wins, extending far beyond the gridiron.
“We focus on the inner scoreboard and let that outer scoreboard, that we get judged off of, take care of itself, but it’ll be because of love, effort, hard work and commitment to each other that we win big.”
Wright did not waste time naming his assistant coaches. Although he stated he wanted to retain some NAU coaches and bring others along, five of his six assistants followed Wright from Pittsburg State University.
Wright said he and his staff will not take next season as a rebuilding year and want to “win now.” Ultimately, his goal is to put some sparkling accessories on NAU’s football graduates.
“I can’t wait to get started. At the end of all of this, I hope all of our guys that had the opportunity to be on the football team will get their diploma as they get up on that stage and they’ll have a championship ring on their finger when they do it,” he said.
Wright and his staff will have quite some time before their first kickoff in the Walkup Skydome. The Lumberjacks are set to begin next season on Aug. 31, 2024, against Lincoln. FBN
By Ava Nichols, FBN
Photo by Ava Nichols: Brian Wright speaks to donors, staff, media and his family in the NAU High Performance Center.
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2024-01-06 23:25:03 , Flagstaff Business News