Higgins at the Helm

New ESU head football coach Garin Higgins speaks at a press conference today. Higgins is a ESU alum who played football for Coach Larry Kramer.

Garin Higgins’ first words at this morning’s press conference perhaps best displayed why he was the best choice for the vacant Emporia State head football coaching position.

After Director of Athletics Kent Weiser introduced Higgins to a crowd of about 50 people at the Sauder Alumni Center, Higgins stepped to the podium and shouted, “Go Hornets,” pumping his fist in the air to emphasize the point.

“It definitely is a dream come true to come back here doing what I love to do, which is coach football, and doing it at a place where I want to be,” said Higgins, who played football for ESU from 1987-90 as a quarterback. “This is a big day for me, and it’s something that I am excited about. I’m excited about the challenge of competing in hands-down the best Division II football conference in the country.”

Higgins was chosen to lead Emporia State — a member of the powerful MIAA conference — out of a pool of 72 official applicants for the position that was vacated when Dave Wiemers resigned Nov. 16.

Weiser said that, although the field of applicants included many high-quality coaches, it was Higgins who possessed what Weiser called “the entire package.”

“He (Higgins) has been a collegiate head coach who competed at the national level; he has worked at NCAA institutions similar to ours and is familiar with the rules and regulations of Division II, he is an established recruiter in our area, and finally, has a passion for the success of Emporia State football,” Weiser said.

After his ESU playing days, Higgins’ coaching career started at Northeastern (Okla.) State, where he was a graduate assistant for two seasons. He moved on to Northwestern Oklahoma State in 1994, becoming the running backs coach and moving up to offensive coordinator in 1997.

His promotion to head coach came in 2000, and he compiled a 51-9 record in five seasons, taking the Rangers to the NAIA playoffs five consecutive seasons and to the National Championship game in three of those years. Higgins’ team posted a 15-3 record during his tenure against Division II opponents.

Known as an offensive coaching specialist, Higgins was involved in some impressive statistics during his combined time at offensive coordinator and head coach. The NWOSU offense scored 42 points per game between 1999 and 2003, and the Rangers won 31 consecutive games from October 1998 to December 2000.

Higgins moved from Northwestern State to Minnesota-Mankato, where he became the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for one season in 2005. Last year, he returned to Northeastern (Okla.) State to become the offensive coordinator.

In Higgins’ one season at NSU, the Redmen increased their scoring from 19 points per game in 2005 to 23 points per game in 2006.

Higgins thanked the previous coaching staff for “laying the foundation” for successful football at ESU. Before he resigned, Wiemers was 35-32 in his six seasons as head coach, leading ESU to consecutive nine-win years in 2002 and 2003 before suffering three consecutive losing seasons from 2004-06.

ESU had a disappointing end to the 2006 season, losing its last seven games to finish 3-8.

Higgins was honored in August of 2004 as one American Football Monthly’s 10 “Hot” coaches in NAIA football. Two other Hornet coaches made the list that same year — Jerry Kill in Division I-A as coach of Southern Illinois and Wiemers in Division II as ESU’s coach.

Higgins was cautious about predicting big things right out of the gate for the Hornet football team, saying a change in attitude must first take place before anything else.

“I could sit here and talk about how we’re going to win a lot of games and we’re going to win a conference championship,” Higgins said, “but before we get that going, we’ve got to make sure we lay the foundation and we develop an attitude and a set of beliefs and values for our team to believe in.

“Then, all those wins will come into play.”

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