Offensive line coach recovers from brain surgery

First-year offensive line coach Geoff Dartt, who will turn 34 this December, had an operation on Oct. 13 to remove two brain tumors. Head coach Mike Sanford said several players wrote “Coach Dartt” on their arm tape during the Hilltoppers’ game against Charlotte the day after Dartt’s surgery. Photo Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Porter

The WKU offensive line knew it would be facing some adversity in 2017, but nothing quite like this.

First year WKU offensive line coach Geoff Dartt dealt with issues such as dizziness and imbalance throughout the first part of the season.

He was originally diagnosed with vertigo, which is a symptom for a range of conditions. Bryan Schneider, WKU’s associate athletic director, decided to take Dartt to get an MRI on Tuesday, Oct. 10, during the week of WKU’s Homecoming matchup with Charlotte.

Dartt was living with two brain tumors.

Just three days after the MRI revealed the brain tumors, Dartt underwent a significant surgery on Friday, Oct. 13, and was forced to miss the Hilltoppers’ Homecoming matchup against Charlotte.

“The fact that it was originally diagnosed as vertigo, you think it’s just one of those deals where you have to suck it up and roll,” head coach Mike Sanford said on Monday, 10 days after Dartt’s successful operation. “That was coach Dartt’s mentality, he was like ‘I’m just going to keep coaching.’ But when we found out exactly what happened, he told me in a very matter-of-fact manner and didn’t make it seem like it was big deal. I handled it in a very matter-of-fact matter manner until I got in my office and realized that it was a significant procedure he was going to undergo.”

One day after the surgery, the WKU offensive line put up its best performance of the year. For the first time all year, the offensive line didn’t allow a single sack. Redshirt senior quarterback Mike White had a season-best game, throwing for nearly 400 yards and five touchdowns as well as rushing for a touchdown.

The offensive line also helped open the run game as well. Redshirt junior running back D’Andre Ferby and sophomore running back Quinton Baker averaged nearly six yards per carry after the duo averaged less than four yards per carry entering the contest.

Several players, such as redshirt freshman wide receiver Xavier Lane, wrote “Coach Dartt” on their tape in the Hilltoppers’ 45-14 route of Charlotte.

“You think about who you do it for and why you do it,” redshirt senior offensive lineman Jimmie Sims said. “Coach Dartt, especially since he was going through that, it gave us a little boost. To play for a coach like that is always in the back of your head.”

Dartt, who will turn 34 this December, is in his first year as a coach on the Hill. He was an offensive lineman on three Division III National Championship teams at Mount Union in Ohio.

He began coaching at Wheaton College in Illinois and remained there from 2008-2011 until becoming the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at his alma mater from 2012 through last season.

“Talk about a tough guy, he coached through that and had some major, major issues from a health standpoint,” Sanford said.

The next-man-up philosophy has been a major theme of this WKU team as several players have been asked to step up in place of the starters. The same thing applied to filling coach Dartt’s void as well. Tight ends coach Ryan Mahaffey has helped out coaching the offensive line. Offensive graduate assistant Matt Mitchell has helped assist with Mahaffey’s role at tight end while graduate assistant Harris Bivin has stepped up to fill any void left by Dartt’s temporary absence.

“Coach Mahaffey and coach Bivin stepped up,” Sims continued. “It’s next man up just like it is with the players. They’ve done a great job. Nothing slowed down from game planning and everything we do to prepare for games.”

Despite not physically being able to be at practice, Coach Dartt still has found a way to make an impact. Laughing at his assistant’s grittiness and passion for his job, Sanford said Dartt has been texting him and his staff information while watching film on his laptop from the hospital. Dartt found his way back into the football office for the first time on Sunday. He is expected to get more information about his recovery process this week.

“I know he wants to get back out there and get in the offensive linemen’s face and coach them hard,” Sanford said. “When you have a procedure like that, you have to allow the doctors and healing process to play itself to a certain extent. We’re taking it day-by-day.”

The offensive line will look to continue to improve as the Hilltoppers host Florida Atlantic in a C-USA East showdown. With a win, the Hilltoppers will officially be eligible for a bowl game.

Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-799-8247 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SammyP14.