BOWLING GREEN - When the Bowling Green State University football team made a lot of noise by going undefeated through its first eight games this past season, most of the thunder came from its offense.
Scoring nearly 50 points per game got a lot of people's attention, but not many in the stands at the time knew who Gregg Brandon was.
The 46-year-old native of Arizona had more than just a hand in what was going on with the Falcons on offense - he was the tailor of that strong suit as BG's offensive coordinator.
Brandon's ability to take essentially the same players who operated in a mundane and predictable offense before his arrival two years ago, and turn them into the highest-scoring team in the country for most of the past season has made him a front-runner to replace Urban Meyer, who left a week ago to take over the program at Utah.
This year, Brandon's offense set Mid-American Conference records for the most points in a season and the most touchdowns. BG had 5,387 yards of total offense with him making the calls.
Brandon met with athletic director Paul Krebs last week, soon after Meyer's departure. As of yesterday, he is the only candidate who has formally interviewed for the head-coaching vacancy. Brandon has been offered a job on Meyer's staff in Utah, but has decided to stay in BG and work on recruiting while the search process plays out.
“I want the job here, and the people who need to know that, know it,” Brandon said. “I think I've proven myself and deserve a shot, but that does not necessarily mean I'll get the job. I think my record is enough that a guy could look at it and say there's somebody who can do the job.”
Brandon has strong backing from the BG players, and said he finds that very gratifying.
“I think that's awesome - I get goose bumps when I hear that,” Brandon said. “I think I have good player support.”
Krebs indicated a preference to maintain some continuity despite the change at the top, and specifically mentioned keeping the offensive approach the same.
“Greg is the guy who made the whole thing go,” Krebs said. “He is a very strong candidate.”
Mike Price, head coach at Washington State whose team is No. 6 in the country and headed for a Rose Bowl berth against Oklahoma, gave Brandon a solid endorsement.
“I would drive out there today at my own expense to give Gregg a recommendation - that's how strongly I feel about him being a great choice as the next head coach - he's that good,” Price said. “I brought him out here early this year to talk to my offensive coaches. He helped us get to the Rose Bowl.”
Price, whose team (10-2) shared the Pac-10 championship with USC this season, said he has known Brandon in the coaching ranks for 22 years.
“That amount of time gives you the full picture - a great coach, a real innovator on offense, a tenacious recruiter, and one of the hardest-working guys I've ever been around,” Price said. “Gregg has the football smarts, and he has all of the intangibles you need to be a solid head coach. The best guy they would ever have at Bowling Green is right under their nose.”
Brandon has coached at six different places in the college ranks, and said he has had the benefit of learning from a number of capable head coaches along the way.
“I've worked for enough guys and been enough places that I think I'm ready for all that the job entails,” he said. “I knew about Bowling Green because I've known guys in the business who have been here. They talked about the great tradition, and the fact it was such a good place to coach, a good place to be, and that's why I'm here.
“It is very gratifying to see the way things came around here. We went through a similar thing when I was at Northwestern, but the rebuilding was tougher because they did not have the tradition there that Bowling Green has. We got the kids here to perform, and that makes you feel good as a coach.”
In other developments relating to the coaching search, Brian Kelly, head coach of Division II national champion Grand Valley State in Michigan, said yesterday he has received no firm contact from BG and has only spoken through intermediaries, and that he assumes he is out of the running. Kelly said he has interviewed for the Montana job and is focusing on that, or staying put at Grand Valley.
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice confirmed yesterday that Bowling Green has sought permission to speak with quarterbacks coach Alex Wood, who is expected to interview this week. Wood declined to comment.
Wood, who has been the quarterbacks coach with the Vikings since 1999, was head coach at Division I-AA James Madison from 1995-98, leading the team to a 23-22 record, and an appearance in the playoffs in his first season there.