UWSP football head coach finalists down to four
The national search for the next University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) head football coach has been narrowed to four candidates.
The finalists are NCAA Division 1 FCS Weber State University quarterbacks coach Kelly Bills, former NCAA Division II Millersville University (Pa.) head coach Greg Breitbach, NCAA Division II Saint John’s University (Minn.) co-defensive coordinator Brandon Novak, and NCAA Division II Lock Haven University (Pa.) head coach David Taynor.
The job opened up when former head coach Tom Journell stepped down April 23 to become the head coach at NCAA Division III Carleton College (Minn.) after the Pointers went 4-6 last season and 29-31 in his six seasons.
Bills has been an assistant coach at Weber State the last two years, including the program’s best season in 2017, when it finished 11-3 and advanced to the third round of the FCS Playoffs.
In college, he played quarterback at Division 1 FCS Southern Utah in 2003 under head coach Gary Andersen, who later was the head coach at the University of Wisconsin, before he transferred to NCAA Division 1 BYU and played running back and special teams for two seasons.
He was the offensive quality control coach for BYU under former head coach Bronco Mendenhall during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, when he also worked with wide receivers and quarterbacks. He later worked as an offensive graduate assistant at BYU for three seasons from 2010 to 2012, and coached quarterbacks and the offensive line.
He was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at NCAA Division III Willamette University (Ore.) in 2013 and 2014, then an offensive graduate assistant coach at NCAA Division 1 Utah State in 2015, before he worked the last two seasons at Weber State.
Breitbach was the offensive coordinator at UWSP from 2003 to 2006, and spent the last five seasons as the head coach at Millersville, before he stepped down as the program’s head coach Feb. 28.
Breitbach played two seasons at NCAA Division III Dickinson State (Pa.) and two at NAIA Montana-Western, then spent time as an assistant coach Montana-Western and NCAA Division III Lewis & Clark College (Ore.), before he was the offensive coordinator at UWSP for three seasons under former head coach John Miech from 2003 to 2005.
The Pointers averaged over 415 yards and 30 points per game during his three seasons as offensive coordinator and went 8-2 in 2003 with All-American quarterback Scott Krause under center, when they finished the season ranked 12th in the nation.
Breitbach was the running backs coach at the NCAA Division II University of North Dakota for the 2007 season before he was named the program’s offensive coordinator in 2008, while it moved to NCAA Division II for the 2009 season. He spent five seasons as the offensive coordinator at North Dakota, as the team won the Great West Conference Title in 2011 and reached the FCS Playoffs twice, while the 2012 team averaged 33.5 points and 430.5 yards of offense per game.
Breitbach was named the head coach at Millersville the following season in 2013, after the program hadn’t had a winning season since 2000.
Millersville went 10-45 over the last five years, as it improved to 4-7 in Breitbach’s final season last fall.
Novak played at Saint John’s under legendary head coach John Gagliardi, college football’s career wins leader at any level (489 wins), and was a two-time First Team NCAA Division III All-American linebacker in 1998 and 1999, before his spent all 18 seasons of his football coaching career on the staff at Saint John’s.
Novak was the linebackers coach at Saint John’s under Gagliardi for 11 seasons, including on its 2003 National Championship team, then was the running backs coach in 2012. He has spent the last five seasons as the co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach at Saint John’s, as the team went 46-11 during that span, including a 9-2 mark last season in its fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Division III Playoffs.
Saint John’s has made 13 NCAA Division III Playoff appearances in the last 18 seasons, and ranked fifth in Division III in total defense in 2016 with Novak as co-defensive coordinator.
Last season, the Saint John’s defense ranked second in the nation in total defense (207 yards per game), passing yards allowed (118.7 per game), and team passing efficiency defense (87.72 rating), as well as fourth in third-down conversion percentage defense (23.6 percent).
Novak also was the head coach of the Saint John’s wrestling team for 10 years, after he was a NCAA Division III National Champion in wrestling at 197 pounds in 2001, and was inducted into the National Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2017.
Taynor is the head coach at NCAA Division II Lock Haven, where he has spent the last three seasons, and was also a former assistant coach at UWSP under Miech.
Taynor was an NAIA All-American offensive lineman at Urbana (Ohio), then spent one season as an assistant coach at Urbana and two as a graduate assistant at NCAA Division 1 Louisville under former head coach John L. Smith.
He was the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at NAIA Culver-Stockton College (Mo.) from 2001 to 2004, as the team finished third in the nation in total offense and second in passing offense in 2002, before he joined UWSP as the offensive line coach in 2004, and then became the Pointers’ defensive coordinator in 2005.
Taynor was the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at NCAA Division II Tiffin University (Ohio) for two seasons when it went a combined 19-3 in 2006 and 2007, before he was named the head coach at his alma mater Urbana in 2008, as it transitioned from NAIA to the NCAA Division II level.
He was the head coach at Urbana for seven seasons and is the school’s all-time winningest head coach for football (38-39), as he guided the team to its five most successful seasons in program history, including back-to-back Great Lakes Football Conference Titles in 2010 and 2011, and a 7-4 record in 2013. He was 37-29 with five winning seasons after going 1-10 in his first year.
Taynor left to become the head coach at Lock Haven in 2015, and hired Miech as the team’s associate head coach/linebackers coach, after the program went 7-79 in the previous eight seasons and hadn’t had a winning season since 1981.
Taynor is 8-25 in three seasons at Lock Haven, while the team went 4-7 overall and 4-3 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference in 2016, for the most conference wins for the program since 1979, as the team set program records for offensive yards, points and touchdowns that season.
UWSP scheduled community open forum dates for each of the four finalists, as Novak (June 6) and Bills (June 8) met with the public.
The community is invited to an informal open forum with Taynor Thursday, June 14, from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Health Enhancement Center (HEC) Room 116, and an informal open forum with Breitbach Friday June, 15, from 2 to 3 p.m. in HEC Room 116.