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ISU football: Phenicie introduced as Bengals’ head football coach

April 4, 2017

Rob Phenicie was introduced Monday at Holt Arena as Idaho State’s 26th head football coach in program history. His hiring was announced last Thursday after Mike Kramer retired following six seasons as the Bengals’ head coach.

Phenicie, who will also be offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, returns to Pocatello after the school announced last Tuesday he left for a coaching position at Northern Iowa.

Jeremiah Johnson — Northern Iowa’s defensive coordinator — reached out to Phenicie in early March about joining the Panthers’ staff, according to Phenicie. After mulling the offer, Phenicie accepted the job as wide receivers coach March 20 and started his new job three days later.

Phenicie’s first practice at Northern Iowa was March 25 and his last practice was March 29. He returned to Pocatello last Friday.

“It was an opportunity,” Phenicie said of Northern Iowa. “The pay scale was higher. Northern Iowa is consistently a top 10 FCS team. In this profession, if you have the opportunity to move up, you do it.”

Before receiving the Northern Iowa offer, Phenicie was named Idaho State’s offensive coordinator Jan. 19 after Matt Troxel accepted a coaching job at Montana. Troxel was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator during the 2016 season. Phenicie was ISU’s wide receivers coach before the promotion.

Phenicie has not signed a contract to be the Bengals’ head coach, as the details are still being worked on. Idaho State Director of Athletics Jeff Tingey first reached out to Phencie about the job last Tuesday and discussions heated up last Wednesday.

Tingey said last Thursday that if Kramer had not retired, he would not have been the Bengals’ coach for the upcoming season.

Phenicie has not spoken to Kramer since taking over, and he said the last time he spoke to Kramer was the night he made the decision to accept the Northern Iowa job.

“I went over and said, ‘Coach, Northern Iowa is giving me this opportunity,’” Phenicie said. “He gave me a hug and said he loved me and told me to do it.”

The Bengals begin spring practice Thursday, and Phenicie said he does not plan any immediate changes to his coaching stuff. But he said the coaches will be evaluated after the spring period.

“This is not the circumstances, by an means, that I wanted this to happen,” Phenicie said. “In the coaching world, this isn’t the time where changes occur.”

Phenicie takes over a program that won four games the last two seasons. In six seasons, Kramer had one winning season as head coach, and he won more than three games twice.

Phenicie, who was with the Bengals during their back-to-back two-win seasons, has relationships with many of the players on the rosters, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

“Coach (Phenicie) has been here,” redshirt junior quarterback Tanner Gueller said. “We know him. As far as change, there isn’t anything crazy. We aren’t throwing playbooks out the window and starting from scratch.”

Phenicie comes to Pocatello with a long list of coaching experience.

Before coming to Idaho State, he was at UNLV for five seasons. Prior to UNLV, he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Big Sky Conference foe Montana from 2003-09, with his top achievement coming in 2006 when he received the Mike Campbell Award by the All-American Football Foundation as the top FCS assistant coach. Before arriving at Montana, he had assistant coaching roles at Cal State Northridge from 1997-98 and Wyoming from 2000-02

His first job in football was as a graduate assistant at Memphis from 1989-91. He took the same job at UCLA before becoming a quarterback and wide receivers coach at Los Angeles Valley College from 1992-96.

“I’m ready to be a head coach,” Phenicie said. “I’ve been in this 27 years. I’m ready to run. It feels right. ... This is a great challenge.”