Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The expectations surrounding University of Montana football makes new head coach Bob Stitt excited, even a bit nervous.
Now that he's four months on the job, getting set to wrap up spring practices, such feelings assure him that he's getting everything he wants out of the challenge.
A coach doesn't go to Missoula for a honeymoon. He's there to win games from day one.
"A lot of times when you take a new job, they're going to give you a couple years to kind of build it your way. There's just not that patience here, and I like that," Stitt said. "I was at a great place for 15 years, but it didn't matter that much in the state of Colorado with Division II football or Mines football. It didn't matter all that much on campus and that drove me crazy. And that's why I took this job, I wanted to be some place where it really mattered, I wanted that pressure on us. I welcome it. It's exactly what I needed at this point in my career."
In many ways, Bob Stitt is never satisfied. He doesn't necessarily have the same public filter as many coaches, so if he doesn't like something, he's going to tell others about it.
And then he's going to change it.
"Stitt Happens" read the T-shirts that promoted his success at Division II Colorado School on Mines, where he led 13 of his 15 teams to winning records at the extremely demanding engineering school, which had only nine winning seasons in the 80 that predated Stitt's arrival.
He also collected three conference titles and three national playoff appearances at School of Mines, including last year when the Orediggers went 10-2 to bring his career record to 108-62 (.635).
"It's been very, very busy taking over a new program," the 50-year-old said. "It's a lifestyle change for me when you've been some place for 15 years and had some success. It kind of runs itself, everybody kind of knows what to do. It was fun for me to start completely over and really energizes me, got my juices flowing at my age and at this point of my career."
It may seem Stitt was an easy choice given his success. But Montana, one of the most tradition-rich programs in the FCS, including two national titles, five other championship game appearances and a record 22 playoff appearances, went outside its program connections to hire Stitt, which hadn't happened since Don Read was selected in 1985. Stitt, who at that time was a student at Doane College in his native Nebraska, had never even been on Montana's campus until the interview process as the Grizzlies' administration sought to replace the retiring Mick Delaney following his third season.
Once on campus, Stitt got to visit the famed Washington-Grizzly Stadium that he now calls home. Of course, his teams are expected to fill the 25,217-seat stadium, as they did at times last season in leading the FCS in home attendance (23,777 average). The Grizzlies have posted a 180-26 record there since its opening in 1986.
Still, there were other reasons for Montana to hire Stitt. He's the type of offensive-minded coach whom was sought in the selection process, one with a high-tempo scheme that gets more plays in a game than Chip Kelly. Seriously.
He also has a track record for running a program the right way, and UM is still coming out of a period of negative national attention for the misdeeds of some former football players and the way the university handled sexual assaults on campus.
"If Montana struggled at all, maybe bringing kids in that didn't belong," Stitt said. "We've got to keep them eligible, we've got to keep their noses clean off the field. That's what we're gonna do."
Accountability has been a big part of Stitt's message to his players since his arrival.
"When you take over a great program with a strong tradition," he said, "the players and everybody involved kind of want you to just come in and keep it going. Well, change is good in a lot of ways. So we have to put our stamp on things. The past is the past and what we're going to do is going to become tradition.
"The biggest theme here is just a very disciplined football team. We really had to work on the little things with them on and off the field. We've got good players and they'll play hard, but it was a little bit lackadaisical early. We've just got to get them to realize everything has to be perfect and there's going to be a very structured environment here in this football program. There's really only one way to do it, there's no gray area."
Stitt has inherited a team that lost a number of key seniors from last year's 9-5 squad, which tied for second place in the Big Sky and won an FCS playoff game before getting ousted by conference rival Eastern Washington. But the Grizzlies have 15 returning starters, including two from 2013 who missed last season.
During spring practices, which conclude with the spring game on April 11, Brady Gustafson has taken control of the race to be the new starting quarterback. The offense, which runs from a pro set and will feature wide receivers Jamaal Jones and Ellis Henderson, will go fast and make it difficult on a defense to make its calls and to substitute players.
The Grizzlies' 3-4 defense will feature a terrific linebackers corps led by Kendrick Van Ackeren, Jeremiah Krose and Herbert Gamboa. The loss of Big Sky defensive player of the year Zack Wagenmann is tempered on the defensive line by the presence of end Tyrone Holmes and tackle Caleb Kidder, who missed last season.
Stitt's UM debut will be in the first game of the college football season, against four-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State in the FCS Kickoff on Aug. 29. It will be followed by another home game against Cal Poly and then a trip to Liberty as part of a demanding non-conference schedule leading up to the Big Sky wars.
But it's Montana football after all. Every game is big.
"We knew we could do it over and over again at School of Mines," Stitt said. "Now let's see if we can do it at this level and at this program."