What were B1G coaches doing 20 years ago?
There are a variety of ways I could remind you of 1996.
I could start shouting, “show me the money!” into one of those state-of-the-art cordless phones. Or, I could walk around humming the theme song to Mission Impossible while bouncing across living room furniture trying not to set off any tripwire.
Or, rather than trying to reenact scenes from movies that Tom Cruise has ingrained in our minds, I could tell you what current B1G head coaches were doing 20 years ago.
None of them starred in a pair of box office hits but there were still some pretty interesting stops in 1996.
Lovie Smith, Illinois
Smith had wrapped up his only season as the defensive backs coach at Ohio State for a position as the linebackers coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Smith had the luxury of coaching Derrick Brooks and Hardy Nickerson that year. The two combined for 15 Pro Bowl appearances.
Kevin Wilson, Indiana
Wilson was in the middle of a seven-year stint calling the offense for the Miami (OH) RedHawks. It was a mediocre season as Miami finished 6-5 and the team averaged 24.8 points per game.
Wilson was the offensive coordinator under the late Randy Walker.
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Believe it or not, Ferentz hasn’t actually been at Iowa since the beginning of time. Two decades ago, the 18-year Hawkeye head coach followed the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore where he continued to serve as the offensive line.
The Ravens surrendered 34 sacks and averaged 109 yards per game on the ground.
DJ Durkin, Maryland
Durkin was rounding out his playing career…in high school. That’s right, the 38-year-old head coach was a senior at Boardman High School. There, he was an all-conference and All-Northeast Ohio selection before playing at Bowling Green.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
“Captain Comeback,” was in his third season at quarterback with the Colts. After a 5-0 start, Indianapolis finished 9-7 and was defeated by Pittsburgh in an AFC Wild Card playoff game.
Harbaugh threw for 2,630 yards and 13 touchdowns along with 11 interceptions. And he might’ve starred in a commercial or two:
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Twenty years ago, Dantonio was still getting familiar with East Lansing. He was just in his second year has the defensive backs coach under Nick Saban at Michigan State.
Dantonio stuck on the coaching staff as an assistant until 2000. In 2007 he was hired as the head of the Spartans football program.
Tracy Claeys, Minnesota
A longtime coaching relationship was just getting underway. Claeys was the defensive line coach at Emporia State, a Division II program in Kansas. He was in the second of a 21-year run working under Jerry Kill.
Mike Riley, Nebraska
It was the last of a four-year run as offensive coordinator at USC for the Husker head man. The Trojans finished 6-6 and ranked 48th nationally in points scored as they averaged 27.1 points per game.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Fresh off a 10-1 regular season that landed the Wildcats in the Rose Bowl, Fitzgerald was in his senior year at Northwestern. The Wildcats finished the 1996 campaign 9-3 and the linebacker ended his career with 299 stops and 20 tackles for loss.
Fitzgerald also became the first two-time winner of the Nagurski and Bednarik Awards.
Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Meyer became the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame in what would be the final season in South Bend for legendary coach Lou Holtz. The three-time national champion worked on Bob Davie’s staff at Notre Dame until 2000.
James Franklin, Penn State
Nearly 165 miles from State College, Franklin returned to his alma mater to spend a season as the defensive backs coach at East Stroudsburg University. The Warriors finished 6-4 that year with a 4-2-conference mark.
Franklin played and coached under Dennis Doud, a legend on the Division II gridiron. He’s called the shots at ESU since 1974 and has a 256-181-3 record.
Darrell Hazell, Purdue
Things weren’t good for Hazell 20 years ago, either. He was on the Western Michigan coaching staff and watched over the wide receivers. The Broncos ended the season 2-9.
Receiver Tony Knox did earn All-MAC honors, catching 71 passes for 754 yards and six touchdowns under Hazell’s tutelage.
Chris Ash, Rutgers
A year after his collegiate football career ended, Ash finished up his academic work and earned a Bachelor’s degree in secondary education at Drake University. He was also working as a volunteer/graduate assistant that year.
Ash spent an additional three years on the staff at his alma mater.
Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
Chryst wasn’t in the college game two decades ago. He wasn’t even in the country. The Wisconsin native was the offensive coordinator for the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
It was a long season for Chryst, as the team finished with a 5-13 mark.