It seems fitting that Brian Wright plowed his walkway and driveway for the final time Saturday morning. A day after one of the bigger snowfalls of a tame winter, Wright confirmed he is leaving Bozeman for a sunnier pasture.
The Montana State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach was recently named to the same position at Florida Atlantic University, a Football Bowl Subdivision team in Boca Raton, Fla.
Wright was hired by new head coach Carl Pelini and will be handed the reigns of a team which went 1-11 and averaged 248.8 yards of total offense and 12.9 points per game in the final season of legendary FBS head coach Howard Schnellenberger's career.
"Trading the mountains for the beach," Wright chuckled. "Professionally, it was an opportunity to advance to the Division I level, to a great program and to work for a great head coach.
"It's a great opportunity at a place you feel like you can recruit great student athletes to because of their facilities and because of the academic programs there. And the location."
MSU head coach Rob Ash noted the program "is going to miss him."
"It's a great opportunity for him," Ash said. "He's an outstanding coordinator (and) this is a coordinator position he is going to. He just felt like it was a great opportunity to move up in the ranks of the coaching profession."
Under two years of Wright, the Bobcats turned into a Big Sky Conference power. MSU gained 11,014 yards of offense and scored 97 touchdowns, split almost evenly between 2010 (5,422 yards, 47 TDs; 451.8 yards per game) and 2011 (5,592 yards, 50 TDs, 430.2 ypg). Twenty-five Bobcats were named All-Big Sky Conference team members in two years, including six on the first team with no repeats. MSU has garnered the BSC Newcomer of the Year honor in both years, with quarterback Denarius McGhee earning the accolade in 2010 and running back Tray Robinson being selected this past season.
Wright helped guide back-to-back 1,000-yard rushers in Orenzo Davis (1,106 in 2010) and Cody Kirk (1,351 in 2011) and presided over the two-year MSU career of wide receiver Elvis Akpla, who ended his tenure as one of its most prolific pass-catchers in school history with 126 catches for 2,127 yards and 18 touchdowns. Akpla was also named to the AP All-America third team and to Phil Steele's FCS All-America team.
In two years under Wright's tutelage, McGhee has thrown for 5,962 yards and 46 TDs.
More than any of the numbers or awards, though, Wright seemed most grateful for the chance to help mentor student-athletes.
"I just hope that I was able to make an impact on the players that I coached here ... (on) more than just the field," Wright said. "Something they can take with them beyond football when they graduate from Montana State.
"My family and I really enjoyed our time here and we had a great experience here working at a great institution, for a great coach and a program that's on the rise."
Ash noted he's received interest already from both inside and outside the program about the job opening, but doesn't have a particular timetable for replacing Wright. The Bobcat head man, who also serves as the current president of the American Football Coaches Association, added he'll wait until after the annual AFCA conference - slated for this weekend - to dive into the search fully.
"I want to make sure I go down there and meet some people, it's a great opportunity at that convention to meet people face-to-face," Ash said. "I'm going to do a thorough job of considering possibilities and make the best decision for the program as soon as I can without being in a hurry."
Gidal Kaiser can be reached at email@example.com or 582-2670.