Oklahoma football: How a season at Oklahoma Panhandle State helped shape Bill Bedenbaugh's career

OU's new assistant spent the 1995 season as Panhandle State's offensive line coach, where, in addition to coaching duties, drove one of the vans to games, cut the grass and lined the fields. He left after the season to join Hal Mumme and Mike Leach at Valdosta State.
by Jason Kersey Published: June 22, 2013
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photo - COLLEGE FOOTBALL: New University of Oklahoma (OU) offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh speaks with the media at his introductory press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 in Norman, Okla.  Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: New University of Oklahoma (OU) offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh speaks with the media at his introductory press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma Panhandle State's offensive linemen piled into two well-used, 16-passenger vans and departed on a 12-hour journey for an Oct. 21, 1995 game at Iowa Wesleyan.

Chauffeuring one of the off-white “hog vans” was 23-year-old assistant coach Bill Bedenbaugh, who just figured such menial tasks were part of any college football coach's job description.

Bedenbaugh also mopped the weight room floor, cut the grass, lined the field and assembled equipment during his one season as offensive line coach at the small university in Goodwell, an Oklahoma outpost located 300 miles northwest of the college football mecca where he'll work in 2013.

“He's gone from driving the van to Wesleyan to riding on the charter plane to Notre Dame,” said then-OPSU head coach Rick Haasl, who gave Bedenbaugh his first job nearly 18 years ago.

“That is so cool. My goodness.”

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops hired Bedenbaugh in February to toughen up the Sooners' offensive line and enhance recruiting at those positions.

The new OU assistant has coached linemen all over the country, but perhaps nothing better illustrates Bedenbaugh's attitude, work ethic and coaching ability than the story of his year in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

“It humbles you,” said Fred Chain, a freshman offensive tackle on the Aggies' 1995 squad. “You have to work harder at a place like that. Nobody gave anything to us, and nobody gave anything to him.

“Everybody that went through there is somebody special because they made it out of there. They took a chance to go to the middle of nowhere.”

First impressions

Bedenbaugh had just graduated from Iowa Wesleyan in the summer of 1995 when he got a call from Pat Poore, his last head coach who'd just taken a job as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma Panhandle State.

“I was actually probably about to go be a high-school coach and go that route, and about a week or so before the fall season started, he called and asked if I wanted to do it,” Bedenbaugh remembered.

There was no interview and very little time to think about it. So Bedenbaugh jumped on a plane to Amarillo, Texas, then drove two hours north on U.S. Highway 287 to Goodwell to accept the position.

For Bedenbaugh, who was born in Philadelphia and lived in suburbs of Houston and Chicago growing up, the scenery wasn't anything he was used to.

“Along the way, it was nothing that I had really experienced,” Bedenbaugh said. “I didn't see a whole bunch.”

Ditto for when he arrived in Goodwell, a tiny town with a population just north of 1,000, not much housing available and very little entertainment.

Bedenbaugh lived in the OPSU dorms just like a student, which actually became quite helpful as he found unique ways to connect with his players.

“He was one of us in a lot of ways,” said Frank Beede, a senior left guard that year.

One of the things about Bedenbaugh that immediately impressed Haasl, though, was the young coach's ability to keep things professional with his players, many of whom were around the same age.

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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The Bill Bedenbaugh file

Position: Oklahoma offensive line coach

Age: 40

High school: St. Charles (Ill.) High School

College: Graduated in 1995 with his bachelor's degree from Iowa Wesleyan, where he was a four-year starter on the offensive line. Earned a master's degree in 2001 from Texas Tech.

COACHING HISTORY

1995: Panhandle State, offensive line

1996: Valdosta State, offensive line

1997-98: Central Michigan, graduate assistant

1999: Ferris State, offensive line/running game coordinator

2000-02: Texas Tech, graduate assistant

2003-04: Texas Tech, running backs

2005-06: Texas Tech, offensive line

2007-09: Arizona, offensive line/running game coordinator

2010: Arizona, co-offensive coordinator/offensive line

2011-12: West Virginia, offensive line

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