Sep 04 2011

Carlson: The Bengals’ road back

Published by at 12:16 pm under Carlson

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

In sports, as it is in the equally brutal world of politics, it is all about relationships. And in the long journeys involved in comebacks, sometimes the relationships one never knows about are crucial to the outcome.

Today, under weather forecasters predict to be almost perfect for fall football — clear skies, a cool breeze and glaring sunlight – a less than capacity crowd in Martin Stadium, will see Idaho State University begin the long march back to football respectability under the watchful eye of Mike Kramer, one of the best football coaches ever produced by the Big Sky Conference.

There will be a bittersweet undertone to the contest for both Kramer and Washington State coach Paul Wulff have been friends for years, having helped each other at critical times over the years.

Kramer, knowing much more about the vastly improved Cougars than Wulff knows about the largely unknown Bengals, may be able to engineer a respectable showing for his undermanned squad. After all, he has been a very observant assistant to Wulff the last two years at WSU. ISU, a 27 point underdog, is expected to not provide much competition for the PAC-12 team, but Kramer engineered Montana State’s stunning upset of the new PAC-12 Colorado football team a few years back, something Wulff is sure to remind his Cougar squad about.

Once the game is in hand, Wulff is also expected to liberally substitute, not wanting to rub it in on a friend, so it will very surprising if the final score is one of those embarrassing, 87 to 14 blowouts.

The Cougars clearly should not be looking past the Bengals, remembering all too well also last year’s game against Big Sky conference co-champion Montana State – game in which the Cougars had to come from behind in the last minute to pull out a victory, 23-22. Some of the Bobcats on that team had been recruited by, yup, you guessed it, Mike Kramer.

The relationships, nurtured and developed over the years, are also far more than just the two coaches. Indeed, if there is a seldom mentioned but critical participant and the common denominator in several rings of relationships, it is the tall, prematurely gray-headed Associate Athletic Director for WSU, John Johnson.

Johnson, a 1978 graduate of Spokane’s East Valley High School, initially attended Montana State on a football scholarship but then switched to Eastern Washington University. Following a solid playing career there, after obtaining his degree, Johnson moved into the administration side of athletics.

He showed a talent for the work and rose quickly to become EWU’s Athletic Director. One of his first hires for football coach was that of Mike Kramer. Kramer in turn brought Paul Wulff onto his staff following Wulff’s career as a lineman at WSU and a brief fling at professional football.

In the mid-90’s for a variety of sound reasons Johnson decided it was time to move on and initially sought the vacant Athletic Director’s position at Idaho State, where he was a finalist but lost out to Irv Cross, the sports broadcaster who could be most

Recognizing ISU’s mistake, rival Weber State shortly thereafter reached out and snagged Johnson who performed admirably for the Wildcats during a seven-year (1997-2004) tenure.

While at Weber State, Johnson met and was very impressed with one of the Wildcats track stars, a young man out of Pocatello’s Highland High by the name of Jeff Tingey – yup, the one who now is the Athletic Director for ISU.

Johnson gave Tingey an internship in his AD office which lead to an assistant marketing director’s position and started the young man on his way in athletic administration. A couple years back, when Tingey thought about the Bengals playing an up-scale game, he looked at a struggling Cougar team and placed a call to Johnson who put him in touch with the Cougar schedulers.

And when it came time for Tingey to fire ISU’s football coach last year, and then hire a new one, Tingey almost surely placed calls to John Johnson and Paul Wulff to get their read on his inclination to hire a coach with a proven record of winning in the Big Sky.

Johnson, by this time was of course well ensconced at WSU having been wooed back to the Inland Empire, where he has been ever since. Opportunities have come Johnson’s way but he has been content to remain at WSU. His wife, Lisa, is the women’s golf coach at the University of Idaho, and they have 13-month old twins, a boy and girl, who keep them busy as only twins can. They take the twins with them, wherever they go and they enjoy living in Pullman.

It would take a special opportunity to get them to move. Having watched his friend, Bill Byrne, move from MiniDome Facility director to alumni director at Idaho State and then onto the lofty positions of Athletic Director at the University of Nebraska and now Texas A & M, Johnson knows where he can find a guide should he seek that “special opportunity.”

While this may all sound too much like good old boys taking care of one another, there is another common denominator that makes their relationships all the more special. The world of football is primarily all about winning, but also about winning within the rules and doing it the right way.

All these men have enjoyed some degree of success, enough success to keep them in the game. Whether it is John Johnson, Jeff Tingey, Bill Byrne, Paul Wulff or Mike Kramer, they all know it takes hard work, sacrifice and discipline to win the right way without cutting corners or incurring the condemnation of the NCAA.

When one thinks about it, there are actually very few who do succeed over the long-haul doing it the right way. All the rare Mike Kramer’s and Paul Wulff’s of the world ask of the John Johnson’s, Bill Byrne’s and Jeff Tingey’s, who are their bosses, or a school’s fans, is a little bit of patience while they take the time to build winning programs the right way, one step at a time.

ISU takes that first step back today, and regardless of the final score, it is a step in the right direction.

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Comments are closed at this time.

Share on Facebook



WASHINGTON-OREGON-IDAHO Our acclaimed weekly e-pubs: 35-45 pages Monday mornings getting you on top of your state. Samples available. Contact us by email or by phone at (208)484-0460.



This will be one of the most talked-about Idaho books in Idaho this season: 14 years after its last edition, Ridenbaugh Press has released a list of 100 influential Idahoans. Randy Stapilus, the editor and publisher of the Idaho Weekly Briefing and author of four earlier similar lists, has based this one on levels of overall influence in the state – and freedom of action and ability to influence development of the state – as of the start of 2015.
100 Influential Idahoans 2015. By Randy Stapilus; published by Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 202 pages. Softcover. List price $16.95.
100 Influential Idahoans 2015 page.

100 Influential Idahoans 2015
"Essentially, I write in the margins of motherhood—and everything else—then I work these notes into a monthly column about what it’s like raising my two young boys. Are my columns funny? Are they serious? They don’t fit into any one box neatly. ... I’ve won awards for “best humorous column” though I actually write about subjects as light as bulimia, bullying, birthing plans and breastfeeding. But also bon-bons. And barf, and birthdays." Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons. by Nathalie Hardy; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 238 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
Raising the Hardy Boys page.



"Not a day passes that I don’t think about Vietnam. Sometimes its an aroma or just hearing the Vietnamese accent of a store clerk that triggers a memory. Unlike all too many soldiers, I never had to fire a weapon in anger. Return to civilian life was easy, but even after all these years away from the Army and Vietnam I find the experience – and knowledge – continue to shape my life daily."
Drafted! Vietnam in War and in Peace. by David R. Frazier; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton OR. 188 pgs. Softcover. $15.95.
The DRAFTED! page.


Many critics said it could not be done - and it often almost came undone. Now the Snake River Basin Adjudication is done, and that improbable story is told here by three dozen of the people most centrally involved with it - judges, attorneys, legislators, engineers, water managers, water users and others in the room when the decisions were made.
Through the Waters: An Oral History of the Snake River Basin Adjudication. edited by the Idaho State Bar Water Law Section and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 300 pages. Softcover. $16.95.

Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh died on July 20, 2014; he was widely praised for steady leadership in difficult years. Writer Scott Jorgensen talks with Atiyeh and traces his background, and what others said about him.
Conversations with Atiyeh. by W. Scott Jorgensen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 140 pages. Softcover. $14.95.

"Salvation through public service and the purging of awful sights seen during 1500 Vietnam War helicopter rescue missions before an untimely death, as told by a devoted brother, leaves a reader pondering life's unfairness. A haunting read." Chris Carlson, Medimont Reflections. ". . . a vivid picture of his brother Jerry’s time as a Medivac pilot in Vietnam and contrasts it with the reality of the political system . . . through the lens of a blue-collar, working man made good." Mike Kennedy.
One Flaming Hour: A memoir of Jerry Blackbird. by Mike Blackbird; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 220 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
See the ONE FLAMING HOUR page.

Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.


by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at (softcover)



NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

How many copies?


The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through (softcover)


by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through (softcover)

without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.


How many copies?
The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.