By Alexander Haynes
The palpable energy and wave of confidence that Head Coach Jake Spavital exuded at his welcoming press conference would leave people doubting that this was Spavital’s first introductory press conference as a head coach. The Texas State Bobcats football team introduced their new head coach, which he was only hired 10 days after beginning a search with Parker Executive. In a press conference that was as energetic as the new coach – a room fit for a coach notated for his firework offenses at West Virginia, Texas A&M, and California Berkley. Some may call coach Spavital’s “player-coach” personality frivolously energetic for the job of turning around the Texas State football program by demanding a veteran head-coach . Others would argue that the fanciful, yet calculated hope of Spavital is the only way the Texas State program can turn in wins. Setting the expectations up front, coach Spavital said, “We are going to win games, we are going to win championships, we are going to win bowl games, we are going to win by playing an exciting, up-tempo offense, we are going to recruit young men who will do what it takes to win with integrity.”
If the expectation of Spavital are too fanciful for the 2018 three-win program, everything about his introductory press conference would argue different – a commitment to meeting with players, bringing in a staff within a week to commence recruiting, sparking a community and “The most important thing is what I told the players today, we are all in this together, and we are all heading in the same direction… It is what it takes to start a family.”
Head Coach Jake Spavital’s Biography
The richness of coach Spavital’s history is one factor which he iterated and was bountifully thankful for, such as leaving no doubt that his time as a coach’s son, the education while serving as the quarterback and punter on Missouri State’s football team. As well as, his many jobs around the country have created the leader and offensive mind he is today.
Spavital said, “I had the opportunity to work with so many tremendous coaches. I am so blessed to be around some of the greatest who have coached this game, they have paved my path and they have taught a lot…”
Coach Spavital began his coaching career as an offensive quality control coach at Tulsa, in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. However, coaching near the confines of home would not last, as he would serve as a graduate assistant with the University of Houston in 2009 and Oklahoma State in 2010. His first official coaching position would begin in 2011 under West Virginia Head Coach Dana Holgorsen, which was a season where he served as the quarterback coach for Heisman Trophy candidate Geno Smith, beating Clemson in the Orange Bowl in a whimsical 70-33 showcase.
Moving back south, now with his wife Megan Morris – herself a West Virginia legend in gymnastics – Spavital served on the Texas A&M staff from 2013 to 2015 as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks’ coach. He took the 2016 year to experience the enlightening sun of California as an offensive coordinator at California-Berkley, himself enlightening their offense to set a school record in pass completions and assisting quarterback Davis Webb to throw for 4,295 yards and 37 touchdowns.
However, California coach Sonny Dykes would be fired after the season, fulfilling only a 5-7 record. For Spavital that meant a move back to West Virginia, where he has led and curated one of the nation’s top offenses and Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Will Grier over the past two seasons, finishing 2018 ranked number 16 in the AP coach’s poll.
The implication for Texas State on November 30, 2018: a head coach with deep connections for developing and hiring a staff, an explosive and vibrant offensive mind, and a coach with a rich understanding of winning college football.
The Finer Points of Hiring a New Head Coach
An offense that can dance, and roll-over, the best defenses in the nation may have been the key to grabbing the attention of Parker Executive, Texas State President Denise Trauth, and Athletic Director Larry Teis – the commitment and perseverance to interview with Texas State is the underlying trait which makes Spavital a coach ready to transition a program and, in the words of President Trauth, makes him a perfect candidate for his, “Championship experience, recruiting leadership, commitment to win, commitment to core values, [and he] understood the student part of student athletes.”
Interviewing with Texas State was not an easy process coming from the blizzard encased state of West Virginia. After 22 hours of airport hopping through delays and dismal weather, coach Spavital finally arrived in San Marcos at midnight. He then proceeded to tour the facilities with President Trauth and Dr. Teis for the next hour he was eager to review the premises, by flashlight.
Although this was his first time as a candidate to coach at Texas State, Spavital is not a stranger to the area. He has spent time recruiting throughout Texas and personally noted how he always saw the Texas State athletic facilities evolve and improve. When Dr. Teis was asked about recruiting and the potential for facility upgrades to welcome in the new regime, he responded with confidence, coach Spavital informing him the facilities are fine as they are; that being stated, he warmly followed up that coach’s requests in the future would be met with his personal support.
The finer point of hiring coach Spavital is mutual understanding of the commitment it will take to build a winning program at Texas State. Dr. Teis stated that Spavital was the only coaching candidate he visited at his hotel, which consisted of an hour-long personal conversation. That conversation served as a confirmation coach Spavital had earned his reputation as a “player’s coach,” which is a coach who can connect with players who possesses an understanding of the challenges of the careful combination of student and athlete.
Plans Moving Forward
Moving forward, there may be no bigger goal than developing a connection with the team. Players were upset after former Head Coach Everett Withers was fired with one game left in the season, leading to a hostile confrontation between Dr. Teis and players in a follow-up meeting. Coach Spavital, however, has the credentials for the challenge, which he said that he personally was eager to meet with players.
There are players who may elect to transfer, there is tight end Keenen Brown who earned an extra year of eligibility if he chooses to stay and there are 2019 recruits who began their recruiting progress under coach Withers. Today may have begun with high-hopes, but the next month will be telling how players buy into coach Spavital’s plans for the program. Coach Spavital has already met with quarterback Tyler Vitt and Willie Jones III, citing that he was fired up about their intangibles. Although he has not personally met Brown, he discussed how important the tight end and fullback can be to the offense, calling Brown a dynamic player.
Coach Spavital was hesitant to give insight into who the names are for his coaching staff, although he noted that recruiting visits have been pushed back one week in order to establish a coaching staff. Hence, news of who will be filling the staff could be coming rapidly within the next two weeks.
The main goal in his first year will be providing a spark to a program that “was doing something special.” Coach will bring an up-tempo, multiple offense – an offense that kill a team with unprecedented speed or taunt defenses with grinding, slow tempos; an offense prepared and willing to embrace any situation. In observation of the freshman offensive line that was featured in several November matches, he remarked that despite not always being ready, players must play to establish a good foundation up front to build relationships and his eagerness to follow up on that experience by “putting guys in the right position.”
Despite being new to head coaching, Coach Spavital concluded his press conference notating that he is experienced and where he is weak he has the resources to build a robust staff around him. Spavital said, “I am ready to coach and lead this team.” Dynamically endearing, yet austere could summarize the personality coach exuded, and very well could be the ideal to describing the Spavital regime and team at Texas State.
Featured image by Alexander Haynes.