Wyoming Coach Craig Bohl Sticks His Neck Out For A Friend
Craig Bohl took a chance on an old friend this week, hiring his former North Dakota State assistant Willie Mack Garza as the new safeties coach at Wyoming. It's the first Division 1 job for Garza since he was implicated in a recruiting scandal nearly a decade ago.
While coaching under Lane Kiffin at Tennessee in 2009, Garza allegedly paid for a recruit to visit the campus, then lied to NCAA investigators about it. He was also accused of funneling payments to a fictitious consulting company run by Texas high school football scout Willie Lyles, who Garza knew from his playing days at the University of Texas.
Lyles reportedly steered recruits to several high profile programs including Tennessee, LSU, Oregon, and Southern California, where Garza followed Kiffin to in 2010. Garza resigned from USC after the allegations surfaced in 2011. The infractions later landed Tennesee on probation for two years and Garza was effectively barred from coaching by the NCAA for three years.
Garza spent the last seven years rebuilding his career and reputation at small colleges in Texas. His latest stop was Division II Texas A&M - Commerce, where he served as the secondary coach last season.
After a public fall from grace, Wyoming represents a shot at redemption for Garza.
"I take this opportunity very seriously. It has been a blessing that I was fortunate enough to have met Coach Bohl back in 2005 when I was a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator for him. We developed a bond and a relationship that will last a lifetime," he said in a statement yesterday.
Bohl will be counting on Garza to repay that trust.
"We have a reputation of holding ourselves to high ethical standards here at the University of Wyoming, and I expect Coach Garza to follow those high standards," Bohl said.