TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State’s football program broke the shackles of losing under former coach Trent Miles.
New football coach Mike Sanford, who was introduced to the ISU community at a press conference on Monday, wants to kick the door down and take the Sycamores to the next step — to be champions.
“It involves being a champion of the conference and being national champion. It’s about how you do things daily. How hard you work, practice, go to class and take care of business. My expectation is to live every day as champions,” said Sanford in his first comments to the ISU faithful in Dede I at ISU’s Hulman Memorial Union Building. “Every decision that I make and that our players and coaches make will be based on winning a championship.”
Sanford, 57, was announced as ISU’s 24th head coach on Friday, but his responsibilities as Utah State’s offensive coordinator prevented him from coming to Terre Haute until today. The Aggies played in Saturday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Toledo in Boise, Idaho. Utah State pummeled Toledo 41-15 in the bowl game.
Sanford doesn’t just want to build on Miles’ football success, he wants to continue Miles’ success in being involved with the ISU and Terre Haute community.
“Trent went to school here and knew a lot of people. I don’t in any way think I can surpass the relationships he had because of his background, but we want to be a part of this thing and throw ourselves all in,” said Sanford, who gave Miles credit for building ISU’s program from one of the nation’s worst to one of the MVFC’s winning programs.
Sanford — who played at USC in the mid-1970s under both John McKay and John Robinson — has been coaching since 1978. He’s made stops at 12 different schools — including Purdue (1987-88) and Notre Dame (1997-98).
He was head coach at UNLV from 2005-09 and compiled a 16-43 record at a school that has often struggled in football. The Runnin’ Rebels had five-win seasons in Sanford’s last two years there, an improvement from the two-win seasons that had taken place in the time when Sanford arrived.
Aside from his time at UNLV, Sanford has coached on the offensive side of the ball for his entire career. He coached wide receivers at Southern California when future NFL regulars Curtis Conway, Johnnie Morton and Keyshawn Johnson starred for the Trojans. He was at Utah as offensive coordinator when Alex Smith was groomed to be the NFL’s No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005. Sanford said he intends to run a multiple-style offense at ISU. He had said in a Friday interview that he preferred to run a 3-4 defense.
Those qualities appealed to ISU Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman, but Sanford’s character was just as important.
“We’re proud to have Coach Sanford. He has outstanding background and experience, but he’s also a man of integrity and has a strong work ethic. He has a terrific family, he’s strong in his faith and he loves to win. These are all great qualities for our leaders in our football program,” Prettyman said.
Prettyman said that Sanford will have a five-year contract, but terms of the contract are still to be negotiated. Prettyman said Sanford’s budget for assistant coaches will be “similar and will play it by ear as it comes along.”
Sanford was joined by wife, Melinda, at the press conference. Sanford has two grown children — daughter Lindsay and son Mike Jr.
Mike Sanford Jr. is the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Stanford. Sanford Sr. will attend his son’s Rose Bowl contest on Jan. 1 as the Cardinal play Wisconsin.
“I’ll be at the game and I’ll be talking to some coaches in California that will be tied in with that,” said Sanford, who said that his son once accompanied him on the field at the Rose Bowl when USC played in the game.
Sanford said he enjoys spending time with his family and plays golf when his football duties don’t intervene.