When you meet Mike Moroski, the first two things you'll notice are his height (6 feet 5 inches) and a smile that is almost as wide as he is tall.
The 56-year-old Moroski said he gets his height from his mom but his athletic prowess from both mom and dad (she ran track and played tennis, he was an All-American basketball player). After excelling as quarterback for the University of California at Davis football team in the 1970s, Moroski was drafted into the National Football League by the Atlanta Falcons and eventually played for the Houston Oilers and San Francisco 49ers before retiring in 1986.
Moroski returned to UC Davis as a football coach and stayed there for 15 years until earlier this year, when he became the head football coach for the College of Idaho--guiding its first gridiron program since 1977. This version of the Coyotes will play its first game in 2014.
Most people know that you were a fine football player but I understand that you were also an excellent baseball player.
I had the same coach for baseball and football, and I'll never forget the day that I was scheduled to pitch and my coach had to tell me that my sister had been killed in a car accident. I still think of my coach. What does he say? I was a 20-year-old kid. When the culture is right, there's something special about college athletics that's conducive to growth and nurturing. And that means dealing with reality, and sometimes that reality includes tragedy.
Yet the media is filled with stories about carpetbagger college coaches who come and go as quickly as the money does, or college football programs that are more trouble than they're worth.
Coaches that hop from team to team for enormous amounts of money: That's not me. I routinely say that football is sometimes well deserved of its bad image and some guys should be controlled more or disciplined more soundly. Having said that, the vast majority of coaches that I've ever met are really good people and into it for the right reasons.
Tell me about throwing a touchdown pass to Jerry Rice for the 49ers in 1986.
We were playing Green Bay in Milwaukee and we were behind. Coach Walsh said, "Let's go to the two-minute drill, no huddles." He was fantastic. I never felt more confident as a player. It was a short crossing route and we found a way to win that game.
How do you recruit for a College of Idaho team that doesn't exist?
The conversation starts with the academic component. College of Idaho is a small laboratory, but we're getting you ready to do big things. This year, I'm educating people about C of I. I already realize that Idaho is football country.
But a fair amount of football talent regularly leaves Idaho.
Somebody speculated that there are about 100 Idaho kids playing college football outside of the state. And that's tough on Boise State. They want to have a local flare, but their job today is to recruit the best athletes from across the country. They like Idaho kids, but there is a finite number on Boise State's roster. University of Idaho is limited, Idaho State is limited. We aren't limited.
You know [Boise State University] Coach Chris Petersen very well [the two coached together at UC Davis], but those who don't know him see him as a bit of an enigma.
The perception of a big-time football coach isn't always great either--they sound arrogant, they're untouchable or lots of things in between. What's disarming about Coach Pete is that he seems like a great guy, really loves his job and seems like he's not always looking for the next biggest paycheck. And that's him. He's extremely competitive and has very high standards. There's something that's noticeably refreshing about him.
You still need to build a staff.
I still don't have a defensive coordinator, but I'll have one by January. I already have an offensive coordinator; I'll have one other main assistant, some part-timers and volunteers.
How many students have you recruited?
Fifty-five will begin this fall and 50 more will come in next year.
Do you want to make your conference's playoffs by a particular year?
I've really stayed away from that. It can take you off track and then you start worrying about the wrong things. If we're doing this right, there should be a thirst for knowledge and a desire to be good in every single area. Our student athletes should be fully engaged so that by their second or third year, they're working on an internship for life beyond college. We need to be on our game.