Breitbach named UWSP football head coach
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) athletic director Brad Duckworth named Greg Breitbach as the new head coach of the UWSP football team Monday, July 2.
Breitbach was the offensive coordinator at UWSP from 2003 to 2006, and spent the last five seasons as the head coach at NCAA Division II Millersville (Pa.).
Breitbach takes over for Tom Journell, who stepped down April 23 to become the head coach at NCAA Division III Carleton College (Minn.), after the Pointers went 4-6 last season and 29-31 in his six seasons as the head coach.
“We wanted somebody committed to Pointer football and somebody who could get us back to being one of the teams competing for the Conference Championship year in and year out, and competing in the NCAA Tournament,” said UWSP athletic director Brad Duckworth. “There were several folks in the pool that rose, that we thought could do a good job, and certainly we’re proud of the depth and quality in our pool, and when it boiled down to it, there was a familiar name to Stevens Point that just kept coming back to us.
“And what he said to me in the process really rung true, ‘if we do everything the right way, winning will follow,’” he said. “And that’s exactly what we were looking for.”
“My family and I are grateful and honored to be back here at Stevens Point and the Plover area,” said Breitbach. “It’s a position that I’ve looked at for years, since ’03 to ’06 I was here as an assistant coach, once I left it was always in the back of my mind that some day, some how, the opportunity might come up.
“And with all things working out the way they have, it’s good to be back as the head football coach here at UWSP,” he said.
In college, Breitbach played two seasons at NCAA Division III Dickinson State (Pa.) and two at NAIA Montana-Western, then spent time as an assistant coach at Montana-Western and NCAA Division III Lewis & Clark College (Ore.), before he became the offensive coordinator at UWSP under the program’s all-time winningest head coach John Miech.
The Pointers averaged over 415 yards and 30 points per game during his three seasons as offensive coordinator and went 8-2 in 2003 with All-American quarterback Scott Krause under center, when they finished the season ranked 12th in the nation.
“I’ve got a lot of different people throughout the course of my career that have helped me and have helped put me in this position, it started with my high school football coach, Don Schillinger back in Baker, Montana, he’s one of the winningest high school football coaches in the state of Montana, he’s a guy that set high expectations and had disciplined football, won six State Championships,” said Breitbach. “My brother Dave worked with him and showed me a lot about the confidence and the love of the game, and from there I decided that I wanted to become a football coach, and develop and build a career.
“And through the years I ended up being able to come here in ’03 and work with some people that made some big impacts on me, Frank O’Brien, our former athletic director, was a person that I learned a lot from in how to deal with personnel and people skills, and how he treated people in the community,” he said. “And coach John Miech, who had the confidence for hiring a guy from the West Coast as an offensive coordinator and bringing me out here, showed me a lot about recruiting, about Pointer Pride and the passion that it takes to be a head coach in this league and this university, and his connection to the alumni was critical. I learned a lot from John, and I’m thankful to him for giving me this opportunity, because UWSP really set me on a trajectory as a college football coach.”
Breitbach was hired as the running backs coach at the NCAA Division II University of North Dakota for the 2007 season, before he was named the program’s offensive coordinator in 2008, while North Dakota moved up to NCAA Division 1 FCS for the 2009 season.
He spent five seasons as the offensive coordinator at North Dakota, as the team won the Great West Conference Title in 2011 and reached the FCS Playoffs twice, and the 2012 team averaged 33.5 points and 430.5 yards of offense per game.
The following season, Breitbach was named the head coach at Millersville in 2013, after the program hadn’t had a winning season since 2000. Millersville went 10-45 over the last five years, as it improved to 4-7 in Breitbach’s final season last fall for its most wins in 10 seasons, before he stepped down as the head coach Feb. 28.
“He’s had a tremendous career since he’s been here, had a great career while he was here,” said Duckworth. “Had the opportunity to go out to North Dakota, did a great job there, has been a head coach since, and fits the values of Pointer athletics.
“Family man, committed to our program, committed to our guys,” he said.
Breitbach was one of four finalists for the UWSP job, along with NCAA Division 1 FCS Weber State University quarterbacks coach Kelly Bills, NCAA Division III Saint John’s University (Minn.) co-defensive coordinator Brandon Novak, and former UWSP assistant coach and current NCAA Division II Lock Haven University (Pa.) head coach David Taynor.
“This was a competitive search, 70-plus applicants that were extremely qualified, and certainly vetted through the process the way it should’ve been done,” said Duckworth. “This was a difficult process for (the search and screen committee), and ultimately we came out in a great spot.
“So I want to thank them, I also want to thank our student athletes for their patience during this time,” he said. “That’s always tough when you’re going through summer without a head coach, and we’ve been able to close that.”
“The biggest draw for me, with this position, was all about the people,” said Breitbach. “There are so many people here, not only in the university itself and the athletic department, but in this community, that made an impact on our family and made us want to come back and be part of this institution and part of this university, part of this football program.
“Stevens Point and the community are ready for UWSP football to get on to the Championship level here in the WIAC and get back into the playoffs and be on a national stage,” he said. “We’re doing it in a lot of other sports, and there’s no reason we can’t do it with the football program.”
Since Breitbach left UWSP after the 2006 season, UW-Whitewater won six NCAA Division III National Championships from 2007 to 2014 and made nine NCAA Tournament appearances, UW-Oshkosh was the National Runner-up in 2016 and has made four NCAA Tournament appearances in six years, and UW-Platteville has made two postseason appearances in the last five years, as they’ve combined to finish in the top three in the WIAC standings in six of the last seven years.
“The WIAC has been pretty cyclical, because you wouldn’t have mentioned those three names when I was here 12 years ago, the league was upside down, other teams were on the top and they weren’t,” said Breitbach. “So we’re just going to focus on us, we’re going to do us really well and do what we need to do to improve day in and day out to set the right standards, the right culture, go to work every day and focus on what we’re doing and what we can control.
“And then I think you’ll see a progression of starting to win, starting to gain some confidence, and you know what, whoever the next team is on the schedule, that’s who we’re going to play,” he said. “But obviously those teams have set the bar, and we intend to reach it and catch them.”
A 1994 graduate of Montana Western with a master’s degree from Portland State University, Breitbach thanked his wife Kara for her willingness to move back to Stevens Point, and for their three children Alaina, Jenna and Trent, for their willingness to become Pointers as well.
UWSP opens the 2018 season Sept. 1 against John Carroll University (Ohio) at Community Stadium at Goerke Field, and Breitbach said that the team’s style of play on offense, defense and special teams remains to be seen somewhat, as the staffing process continues.
“I do have coaches that I’m in discussion with at this point, and intend to finalize that within the next week or so,” said Breitbach. “And what I can say about that process is, they are people who are invested in Stevens Point, have a connection to this university and this football program, and I look forward to getting that finalized in the near future.
“There’s a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, we’ve got to maximize the amount of time that we do have to be ready to go for this season, and I look forward to the work,” he said.
Breitbach said he’d like to see his offense be explosive, be able to score from any place on the field and have guys that can take it the distance, while he also said the staff will have to recruit the local area well.
“Stevens Point is right in the middle of the state geographically, so that gives us an advantage in my mind, in terms of recruiting, because we can reach so many in-state athletes,” said Breitbach. “We’ve got to do a great job of recruiting those towns that are near Stevens Point, because you get an investment from that athlete, he’s playing in front of his family, he’s not far from home and he’s making a name for himself right down the road, those type of kids can impact our program, so that’s where it’s all going to start, real close to our community.
“When we were winning in those years, that was a big part of the roster itself,” he said. “We’re going to find some speed players, some guys that can run, and what I like to say is that our heart and soul is going to come from right around Stevens Point, but our arms and legs may be found somewhere else. So we will take those athletes from maybe neighboring states, or a little bit farther away, that can also help our program win.”
He said he also wants to find athletes who are a fit at UWSP academically and socially, and who are good community members and the type of kids that you’d want in a program.
“There is a blueprint in place that I intend to follow,” said Breitbach. “It will start with Pointer Pride, and that statement right there means a lot to me, it’s part of the reason we moved back, and it will be a way of life that we’re going to follow as we build our program.
“And if you do it right with the day-to-day operations, hour-by-hour decision making, the effort that you put into it, the preparation that you put into it, then you’ve got a chance to win games and start putting winning streaks together, and hopefully at the end of the season, get an opportunity to play in the postseason,” he said. “And that’s ultimately where we want to be as a football program.”