The best job in America.

That's what Bob Stitt had to say about the Montana Grizzly football head coaching gig Friday morning when the university introduced the offensive innovator as its 36th head coach.

Stitt, a 50-year-old coach who comes to Missoula from the Colorado School of Mines, spoke to media members and fans for an hour at Washington-Grizzly Stadium's Canyon Club and made clear early on why he chose to move his family north.

"I wasn't leaving for just any job; I planned on being there the rest of my life," said Stitt, who was head coach at the Golden, Colorado school for 15 years. "But (athletic director Kent Haslam's) call got my wheels spinning.

"Since (former UM head coach) Joe Glenn started talking about Montana when I joined his staff in '88-89 (at Northern Colorado), I never fathomed standing here and talking to you about being the head coach at Montana," he added. "You've got to pinch me right now."

Stitt, who posted a 108-62 record in those 15 seasons at Mines with an 83-44 mark in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play, was hired Tuesday after meeting with Haslam last Thursday and Friday in Missoula. The new head coach signed a three-year contract Tuesday morning good for $175,000 per year, plus on-field and classroom incentives.

Stitt, who led the Orediggers to a 10-2 record last year and his third NCAA Division II playoff appearance with the school, accomplished all the things Haslam wanted in his second big coaching hire since taking over as AD about two years ago. Stitt has a record of success in football and academics, can recruit and do so well from a small school, exudes very high energy and has a proven offensive game plan.

"We all know, especially with the way the Big Sky Conference plays football and others around the country, to have an offensive plan that was proven and worked was important to me," said Haslam, who also hired Travis Decuire as men's head basketball coach earlier this year.

And Stitt's recruiting track record? Fewer coaches have done more with less resources and the kind of restrictions that the academically rigorous School of Mines has in place.

"He'd done it at a place where it was difficult to do it," Haslam said of Stitt's recruiting. "Average ACT coming in was 30, there's only engineering majors, he's only got 22 scholarships playing against teams that have 36. He'd have to take people in and really develop them.

"And I think at Montana we're really known for that, for finding those great players wherever they may be and developing them into great football players and great people."

'GOT TO WIN'

Before Stitt's long stay at Mines, the Tecumseh, Nebraska native was an offensive coordinator at Harvard and Austin (Texas) College. He also coached the offense at his alma mater, Doane (Nebraska) College, after serving as a graduate assistant on Glenn's staff at Northern Colorado.

The common link among his stops has been the offense. The Diggers led the nation in plays this fall (about 90 per game) and first downs (29 per game). They racked up 520 yards per game, fourth best in D-II, and scored close to 40 points each time out.

"We want to produce exciting football -- very exciting football," Stitt said with a smile Friday. "And we've got to win. Statistics don't mean anything if you don't get it done in the end."

The new head man has already started filling out his coaching staff for his first season, which opens at home Aug. 29 against FCS power North Dakota State, a game that will air on ESPN. The winningest coach in School of Mines' history will retain Griz defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak, running backs coach Justin Green and defensive line coach Legi Suiaunoa.

Former Grizzly player and offensive line coach Chad Germer is also bound for Missoula again after coaching on Bobby Hauck's staff at UNLV the past five seasons. Germer was one of the first coaches Stitt contacted when his hire at Montana became imminent.

"We're gonna have the toughest offensive line in the country, and you have to have that," Stitt said. "Everyone thinks we're going to spread this thing out and it's all finesse and we never run the ball. That's not our football team. We're gonna be tough, we're gonna have a 1,000-yard rusher (because) we take what the defense gives us."

Stitt will also pluck a few assistants from his staff at Mines: Receivers coach Nolan Swett and outside linebackers coach Scott Kaniecki.

Offensive control has always been paramount for Stitt -- it's a key reason he never pursued FBS-level offensive coordinator offers, of which there've been several. He'll let Gregorak and his staff handle the other side of the ball, and Gregorak said he's excited to work within Stitt's new system.

"I know coach Stitt and everybody are going to be fired up about Stitt Happens, 40 points and 500-plus (yards), but I still expect the Griz to play very good defense," said Gregorak, an 11-year Montana coach, the last three as D-coordinator. "We were good this year, I expect us to be even better next year."

There's little time for Stitt to revel in his hire for the best job in America, though. He and his wife Joan and their two sons will spend the next two days shopping for schools and their future home.

Following a short break for Christmas, Stitt will be back in Missoula starting to dissect game film and begin recruiting for his debut against the NDSU Bison in eight months.

"There's pressure, but there's passion," Stitt said of joining Griz Nation. "I can not wait to run down that tunnel here next fall."

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