Sul Ross State, tucked away in tiny Alpine, Texas, three and a half hours southeast of El Paso, is a Division III school that finished the 2012 season with an unremarkable 5-5 record.
Then head coach Wayne Schroeder left the school, along with the bulk of his staff. In his wake, five volunteer coaches are holding the program together as the Lobos prepare for the 2013 season.
"We all work together, no one coach takes control," said Robert Churchman, the team's volunteer defensive line coach and special teams coordinator. "We're a family and we try to teach that to our players everyday, "If you're organized, you can deal with any amount of changes and obstacles that cross your path, cause there will be obstacles.'"
Meet the Sul Ross football staff:
- Scotty Walden: a 22-year-old graduate assistant, Walden was the Lobos' offensive coordinator this fall. Walden helped Sul Ross lead the entire NCAA by averaging 581.9 yards per game. The Lobos averaged 63 points per game in their five wins this fall.
- Jarry Poth: a 36-year-old student assistant, Poth was Sul Ross' defensive coordinator this fall. A former high school coach at Somerset (Texas) High School, Poth officiates high school basketball games on the side to help support his family of six.
- Christian Cruz: a 23-year-old graduate assistant, Cruz coached the Lobos' wide receivers in 2012. Sul Ross averaged 333 passing yard per game with the help of five receivers that registered 30 or more grabs this season.
- Robert Churchman: a 34-year-old student assistant that served as the Lobos' defensive line coach and special teams coordinator. Churchman enrolled at Sul Ross after working as a contractor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
- Dan Dunagan: A volunteer assistant offensive line coach and, he also serves as the team chaplain. Dunagan played for Sul Ross in the 1960's.
"We meet everyday to run the off-season program 5:30 a.m. to 7 a.m., plan and discuss recruiting, plan the up coming spring practice in April, complete the 2013 game schedule and all the other things coaches deal with in the day to day operations," said Churchman. "Then we go to class, study, and then talk more football."
A lot of ink is spent, on this site and elsewhere, on coaches pulling in $4 million salaries running programs operating on eight-figure budgets. While situations like this pop up around the country in Division III at this time of year, it's the yeoman effort put in by coaches like these five Sul Ross assistants whose stories can not be told enough.
Sul Ross will hire a new head coach in the near future. If he's smart, that coach's first official duty on the job should be a firm handshake and a hearty "thank you" to the five men whose hard work built a bridge from the previous staff to the future staff, for its the labor of love men like these pour into their jobs on a daily basis that makes football possible at places like Sul Ross.
"We work hard cause it's fun, we have fun cause it ain't really work," Churchman concluded.