STILLWATER — The last time Mike Yurcich changed jobs, 276 Pennsylvania miles from Edinboro to Shippensburg, things got a little stressful on the homefront.
Yurcich and his family were renting an apartment near Shippensburg but still had a mortgage payment back in Edinboro, hoping the house soon would sell.
“That was strenuous on us financially, trying to stay afloat,” Yurcich said.
Yurcich has changed jobs again. Same title, offensive coordinator, but different schools. Shippensburg to OSU. And there's some stress involved. Moving halfway across the country, to a place he and his wife never had seen.
But money? Money is no issue this time. Yurcich's salary has jumped from $52,000 to $400,000, plus a car and bonuses for everything from a top-25 ranking to a BCS bowl.
And Yurcich says the money won't change him or his wife or the way they raise their two sons, ages 2 and 1. Coaching football is coaching football, Yurcich says, and even if an eightfold increase in salary threatened to do what money can do, Julie wouldn't allow it.
Julie Yurcich grew up one of seven kids in Youngstown, Ohio. “Mom was stay at home, dad was a teacher,” Yurcich said. “So they never made much money. Money's not been very important to her as far as a certain status or anything like that. She's a very strong woman, strong backbone. Really supports us well. Keeps me grounded. That's never going to change who we are as people.”
Said Julie, “To me, it's all about raising our kids and being a family. Wherever that happens to be, it happens to be.”
And that happens to now be in Stillwater, with financial security and a new horizon. The last five OSU offensive coordinators now are the head coach at Southern Miss (Todd Monken), West Virginia (Dana Holgorsen), North Carolina (Larry Fedora), LSU (Les Miles) and OSU (Mike Gundy). Yurcich's $400,000 salary could be headed for another explosion.
But again, Yurcich seems of good stock. When you've coached at Shippensburg and Edinboro, you don't take things for granted. You don't feel entitled. Yurcich said he never dreamed of landing such a job at 37.
“What I've tried to do is just win,” Yurcich said. “Prepare myself and do what's best for the team. That's the only thing that really mattered. I didn't have any aspiration other than winning.
“I think you have long-term goals and you think about certain things. Sure, you'd like to be a head coach one day. Sure, you'd like to do some other things, move to Division I and that sort of thing. But really, at the forefront of my thought process, was win the game and do what's best for our team. Try to help this offense develop into moving the ball as much as we can and score as much as we can. That's really what factored into it.”
In six Stillwater months, Yurcich has had some moments that remind him of his change.
* His first spring practice, when Yurcich moved his own cones for an offensive drill, and managers tried to tell him that was their job. “It's nice to have all the services and all the people that we do and all the resources that we do,” Yurcich said. “But moving a cone is not a big deal to me. Or moving a dummy or setting up a drill. I'm good with all that. I think it's more important that I understand the resources available to me, and how to delegate and be organized and communicate and be able to plan efficiently … to use all those resources, that's something that's different for and I had to learn.”
* Rob Glass' strength and conditioning program. At Shippensburg, Yurcich was both offensive coordinator and strength/conditioning coordinator. “The detail and the staff that they have,” Yurcich said. “The dedication they have for the strength, training and conditioning programs. That really strikes you.”
* The facilities in general, which are elite even on the Big 12 scale, much less the Shippensburg scale. “Facility-wise, no matter where you come from, you come here, you're really wowed,” Yurcich said. “This place is very special from a facilities standpoint.”
* The recruiting budget. Back in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, Yurcich would drive a state car — “sometimes they have 2½ tires” — and often stay with friends or family when he recruited the Cleveland area. “You try to save money, help the university out,” Yurcich said.
* Even the culture is different, even though we've heard forever about Pennsylvania football.
“It's more in the community,” Yurcich said. “Football coaches love football. East Coast, West Coast, Oklahoma, Texas, football coaches love football, players love football, parents love football.”
But communities and school districts are different, he says. “When we go recruiting to some of the bigger programs,” Yurcich said. “Broken Arrow, Jenks, down in Texas. The facilities are phenomenal. It really is tremendous how important, not just football, but overall athletics is to this region of the country.
“I think people in this region understand what athletics brings other than just the exercise. It's the sportsmanship it teaches, the teamwork, the unselfishness. Those values are taught through athletics. And people in this region of the United States get that, I think more so than elsewhere where I have been. And it's great to be part of that. It's great to see. That's what I believe, too.”
The football is the easy part. The football is much the same. Sure, Yurcich's offense now will compete against better athletes. But it also will sport better athletes.
“Especially from a quarterback standpoint,” Yurcich said. “I mean, there's certain fundamentals you want to see a quarterback have. I don't care if they're a Division II guy or a Division I guy, being sound fundamentally. You could be talking to a pro guy or you could be talking to a high school kid, and there's a lot of overlap there. So not so much there. The big adjustment for me was having to learn the offense.”
And even that's more semantics than scheme. Yurcich has been running the same up-tempo offense that OSU installed three years ago. That's why Mike Gundy hired him.
“Coaching football really is coaching football,” Yurcich said. “It's about relationships and it's about people and working hard and staying true to your values and who you are.”
OSU, he said, has “been quite different in some aspects, but in reality, the content has been very similar.”
Friends and family back in Pennsylvania and Ohio are thrilled for Yurcich. He took a load of OSU hats on his first trip back home. More than 100 Yurcich supporters are planning to make the trip to Morgantown, W.Va., for the Sept. 28 OSU-West Virginia game.
“When Mike first told me about the offer, I was on Cloud 9 for him,” said Yurcich's father, Chuck, an engineer who raised his family in the Cleveland suburb of Euclid, Ohio. “I'm still excited.
“I don't know if it's a game-changer for him. In some ways it is. The money is a huge upgrade.
“It's still football. How he uses his time, how he thinks, I don't think that's going to change.”
Much has changed for Mike Yurcich. But much has stayed the same.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.
Mike Yurcich: First of a two-part series
Sunday: The big change from Shippensburg to OSU.
Monday: Mike Gundy was not the first coach of a major program to hand his offense over to a coordinator from a lower level.