While Northwest football was on a plane ride home after its Dec. 7 loss to Ferris State in the Super Region 3 Championship, fans took to social media to demand change.
Whether it be to philosophy, the coaching staff, or the personnel on the field, people just wanted something to change. For the better, of course.
The change that followed consisted of the departure of former co-offensive coordinator Charlie Flohr, the demotion of the other half to that Joel Osborn and the addition of the new offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy.
Flohr took a job to be at the helm of the program at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. That change, coach Rich Wright said, wasn’t expected. It was, he said, possible, but still not expected.
That left the program with the responsibility of filling the void that was left by the coordinator who had been on staff for the most recent National Championship in 2016.
As of Jan. 9, that hole was filled by Sturdy, the coach that adds nearly three decades worth of experience to the staff.
“He’s just got a wealth of experience,” Wright said. “Am I silly enough to think that he’s going to sit around here for 20 years? Probably not. But if he’s here for three, and he can help make our program better … I tend to veer towards a different perspective, ‘Can you make this place better while you’re here?’ If you do that, and you have an opportunity to move on to a bigger and better place, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Sturdy’s most recent coaching tenure was in a two-year stint as the guy at the helm at MidAmerica Nazarene from 2018-2020. During that time, the Pioneers compiled a record of 11-11. The 7-win season in 2019 was the first for the program since 2015 and three more wins than his first year.
Prior to the two seasons with the Pioneers, he was the offensive coordinator at Eastern Washington, Washington State, Iowa State and Northern Iowa. Those experiences were all prefaced with his first head coaching job at his alma mater, St. Ambrose in Davenport, Iowa, from 1995-2006.
Sturdy’s time at Ambrose included a stint with Wright, who served as the defensive coordinator from 2000-04. Now, 16 years later, the two switch roles. In some ways, the journey for the two has come full circle. The previous experience, Sturdy said, came into play when taking the position.
“That was a big part of the decision,” Sturdy said. “Whenever you get an opportunity to work with someone you know, that’s a key, especially in this profession. I have a very, very positive opinion of Rich Wright; he and I are very close that way. … That made it easier because there’s history there; we know each other, we respect each other and, you know, that helps when we make these decisions.”
Sturdy’s offensive philosophy isn’t one that he’s aware of yet. Of course, there’s an idea that he has in mind. The person that has, as he said, coached over 200 football games has an idea of what he’d like to do, he said. But ultimately, he added, it depends on what players he’s working with.
“There are certain things that I feel very strongly about in offensive football,” Sturdy said. “It’ll all hinge on what we can do, what we’re built to do — we’ve gotta find those things out.”
As for Sturdy, as a person, he doesn’t differ much from the traits of his former assistant coach that is now his boss, Wright said. They’re both, Wright said, laid back individuals that are down to earth. With that, they’re both not overly flashy in terms of personalities that stick out, he added.
Within his time here, whether it be three years or 20, the first and foremost goal is to win football games. The second, Sturdy said, is to build on relationships that go farther than the sport. That, he added, is his favorite memory of his time coaching and something that he’s looking forward to in his time at Northwest.
“Football is football, and it’s not about the stadium or anything like that, it’s about the relationships,” Sturdy said. “I think I can speak on that because I’ve been at every level, virtually. So, you know, guys say this all the time, but the big time is where you’re at, and football is football and the kids are the kids, that doesn’t change.”