WKU FOOTBALL | Hilltoppers Announce Mike Sanford as Next Head Coach

12/14/2016 11:15 AM

Western Kentucky has named Mike Sanford as the football team’s next head coach, Director of Athletics Todd Stewart announced Wednesday.

Sanford will be the 20th head football coach in Western Kentucky history.

Sanford, 34, spent the last two seasons as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.

Prior to his time in South Bend, Sanford was at Boise St., as the team’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2014.

From 2011-2013, Sanford was on staff at Stanford in various roles.

Before Stanford, he was at WKU as the Hilltoppers’ passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2010.

Sanford has been coaching college football in some capacity for 12 years, but has even been around the college game longer. He was a former Boise St. quarterback from 2000-2004.

Click here for a full recap from Wednesday’s introductory press conference:

Here is the full press release from Western Kentucky Athletics:

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Mike Sanford, one of college football’s brightest offensive minds and a former Hilltopper assistant, has been named the 20th head football coach at Western Kentucky University, Director of Athletics Todd Stewart announced on Wednesday.

A press conference to introduce Sanford is slated for 3 p.m. today in the Jack and Jackie Harbaugh Club at Houchens-Smith Stadium. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.

Sanford, a 12-year college coaching veteran who coached quarterbacks on The Hill in 2010, returns to WKU following six seasons of success and achievement at Stanford, Boise State and, most recently, Notre Dame. A former quarterback at Boise State (2000-04), Sanford brings coaching experience from three Fiesta Bowls and two Rose Bowls, along with playing experience in the Humanitarian, Fort Worth and Liberty Bowls.

With accomplishments at every level, Sanford spent the previous two seasons as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame where he tutored Fighting Irish quarterback Deshone Kizer to stellar performances while in South Bend. Kizer had near-record breaking marks in Notre Dame single-game history for rushing yards by a quarterback (second), touchdown passes (t-second) and total offense (seventh) to go along with the single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (10) in 2015. Kizer finished his career at Notre Dame with the best per-game total offense average in school history (272.2), the highest points responsible for per-game mark (15.6) and the second-best passing efficiency rating (147.7).

The Fighting Irish averaged 466.4 yards of total offense per game in 2015, the third-most in program history and the most since 2005, to go along with a near-record 34.2 points per game that season – three points shy of the program record. The year was capped by Sanford’s fifth-consecutive appearance in a New Year’s Six or BCS Bowl Game, the 2016 BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.

Prior to Notre Dame, Sanford spent one season at his alma mater, Boise State, in 2014, where he guided a Broncos offense that was one of just five FBS schools to rank among the top 30 nationally in all four major offensive statistical categories (scoring, total offense, passing offense and rushing offense). The Broncos went 12-2 that year, won a Mountain West Conference championship and defeated Pac-12 South champion Arizona in the Vizio Fiesta Bowl. Quarterback Grant Hedrick led the FBS in completion percentage (70.8), while ranking seventh in passing yards per attempt (8.91), ninth in passing efficiency (157.2), 13th in passing yardage (3,696) and 14th in total offense per game (306.3).

While Sanford’s development of quarterbacks is well documented, his work with Boise State running back Jay Ajayi is even more notable. In Sanford’s offense, Ajayi led the FBS in scoring with 13.7 points per game and become the only player in FBS history to record 1,800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the same season. The current Miami Dolphin and Pro Bowl candidate set Boise State single-season records for rushing yards (1,823), rushing touchdowns (28), all-purpose yards (2,358) and carries (347) under Sanford.

Everywhere Sanford has been, great players have followed. He helped bring in top 15 recruiting classes each of his two seasons at Notre Dame, the top-rated class in the Mountain West during his season at Boise State, and back-to-back top 20 national recruiting classes – including a top-five class in 2012 – each of his final two seasons at Stanford while serving as the program’s recruiting coordinator. Twenty-three members of the Cardinal’s 2012 and 2013 signing classes were rated in the top 25 nationally at their respective positions while 22 were rated at least four stars, including six five-star selections.

During his second stop in Palo Alto, Sanford helped the Cardinal capture Pac-12 Championships and Rose Bowl appearances in both 2012 and 2013, as well as a Fiesta Bowl trip to cap the 2011 season. As the running backs coach from 2011-12, Sanford was instrumental in the development of Doak Walk Award and 2013 Rose Bowl offensive MVP Stepfan Taylor, Stanford’s all-time career leading rusher (4,300). Taylor set the Cardinal program record for total touchdowns (45) and is second all-time in career rushing touchdowns (40). Sanford then moved into the quarterbacks room in 2013 where he mentored then-sophomore Kevin Hogan, a 2016 NFL Draft fifth round selection.

Sanford spent the 2010 season at WKU on Willie Taggart’s first coaching staff as the passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach after one year at Yale – his first full-time coaching position – where he coached the tight ends, fullbacks and served as recruiting coordinator in 2009. Sanford spent two years on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford as an offensive assistant from 2007-08 and enjoyed a two-year run as a graduate assistant at UNLV under his father, Mike Sr., then the head coach of the Rebels.

A father of three, Peyton (6), Gunnar (2) and Griffin (1 mo.), Sanford is married to the former Anne-Marie Mitchell. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Boise State in 2005.


Born: Feb. 4, 1982
Hometown: Lexington, Va.
College: Boise State, ‘05
Wife: Anne-Marie
Children: Peyton (6), Gunnar (2) and Griffin (1 mo.)

PLAYING CAREER (Quarterback)
College: Boise State (2000-04)

2005-06: UNLV (Graduate Assistant/Specialists/Asst. Quarterbacks)
2007-08: Stanford (Offensive Assistant/Quarterbacks)
2009: Yale (Recruiting Coordinator/Tight Ends/Fullbacks)
2010: WKU (Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
2011: Stanford (Running Backs)
2012: Stanford (Recruiting Coordinator/Running Backs)
2013: Stanford (Recruiting Coordinator/Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers)
2014: Boise State (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
2015-16: Notre Dame (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)

2002: Humanitarian (Boise State, Player)
2003: Fort Worth (Boise State, Player)
2004: Liberty (Boise State, Player)
2011: Fiesta (Stanford, Coach)
2012: Rose (Stanford, Coach)
2013: Rose (Stanford, Coach)
2014: Fiesta (Boise State, Coach)
2015: Fiesta (Notre Dame, Coach)

Andrew Chernoff

Andrew is a sports anchor and sports managing editor for Spectrum News. He covers sports all across the state of Kentucky for Sports Night, which airs weeknights at 6:30 and 10:30 on Spectrum News. Andrew was a sports anchor and reporter at KFDM/KBTV in Beaumont, Texas for four years before making the move back home to the Midwest. He is originally from Carmel, Indiana and majored in broadcast journalism and political science at Syracuse University.

When he’s not on the air or in the field covering sports, you can likely find Andrew playing golf, watching IndyCar and Formula 1 races, or exploring the state of Kentucky. His favorite sport is open-wheel racing. In fact, he has not missed an Indianapolis 500 since the early 2000s.

Whether he is working sporting events or not, he always loves talking sports. He is a prolific tweeter, so if you want to stay “in the know” about sports in the Bluegrass, follow Andrew on Twitter @ADChernoff. If you have a story idea for our sports team, send it to Andrew at Andrew.Chernoff@charter.com.


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