WKU hires Sanford as next head coach

Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell shakes the hand of Mike Sanford after announcing as the new head football coach for Western Kentucky University on Dec. 14, 2016 at L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky.

Evan Heichelbech

Mike Sanford has officially been named the next head coach for WKU, the university announced Wednesday.

The 12-year coaching veteran and former WKU assistant has earned his first opportunity as the head coach and will be introduced at a 3 p.m. press conference later today in the Jack and Jackie Harbaugh Club at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Sanford, 34, has been at Notre Dame for the past two seasons, serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He previously spent one season as the quarterbacks coach at WKU under former head coach Willie Taggart in 2010.

In his time at WKU, Sanford coached former Hilltopper quarterback Kawaun Jakes and the Hilltoppers finished with a 2-10 record in Taggart’s first year as head coach.

WKU all-time leading passer Brandon Doughty used his redshirt during Sanford’s lone season in Bowling Green.

After leaving WKU, Sanford coached quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers at Stanford for three years before moving on to serve as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at his alma mater, Boise State, in 2014.

Sanford played quarterback at Boise State from 2000-2004 and was a part of four bowl teams as the Broncos compiled a 54-9 record over that span.

The Fighting Irish finished 10-3 in Sanford’s first season at Notre Dame, ending the season with a loss to Ohio State in the 2015 Fiesta Bowl.

This season, the Fighting Irish finished with a record of 4-8 and failed to play in a bowl game for the first time since 2009.

Sanford has coached many notable players across college football in his career, including Notre Dame quarterback Deshone Kizer and former Boise State running back Jay Ajayi.

Kizer, a dual-threat quarterback and projected first-round NFL Draft pick in the spring, blossomed under Sanford in the pair’s two years together in South Bend. Kizer broke the single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in his first year as a starter in 2015 and finished his career with the highest total offense average per game with 272.2 yards per contest.

Ajayi, now a starting running back with the Miami Dolphins, led the FBS in scoring (13.7 points per game) and became the first player in FBS history to record 1,800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in a single season.

Sanford also helped develop Stanford’s all-time leading rusher and 2013 Doak Walker Award winner Stepfan Taylor while at Stanford.