Welcome to Texas State, Jake Spavital
Welcome to Texas State, Jake Spavital
By Jayme Blaschke
Coach takes NFL rumors head-on before football season gets underway
Texas State head football coach Jake Spavital remembers the exact moment when insanity struck.
“I was actually making recruiting calls and my phone starts blowing up,” Spavital says, torn between laughing and shaking his head in exasperation. “You know, it’s interesting how word gets out.”
That “word” hit the internet at 9:29 a.m. Jan. 9, when national sports columnist Bruce Feldman tweeted that Texas State University’s newly minted head football coach was in line to be Kliff Kingsbury’s offensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals. The fact that Spavital and Kingsbury were old friends, and Kingsbury himself had unexpectedly made the leap from college to the National Football League a month before, sent a wave of panic through Bobcat fans everywhere.
“I texted Kliff, and he was laughing about it,” Spavital recalls. “I had to go and address this. It was pretty chaotic. I was sitting there with my staff, and my phone wouldn’t stop ringing. I finally said, ‘Let me tweet something out so I can end it all.’’’
That simple tweet — #EatEmUp — calmed the Bobcat faithful, but Spavital still had to follow up with the members of his inaugural high school recruiting class, assuring the players and their families that he wasn’t going anywhere. It was old news. Kingsbury had indeed offered Spavital the offensive coordinator position in early December, when the former Texas Tech head coach was still in negotiations with the Cardinals and New York Jets. Spavital had turned him down and thought that was that.
“I was already committed to Texas State. I already had assistant coaches I’d lured away from different jobs,” Spavital says. “At that point, you’ve got a lot of responsibility on your shoulders with other people.”
That responsibility has proved to be Spavital’s biggest challenge as the former offensive coordinator settles into the role of head coach. “The buck stops here,” as President Harry S. Truman would say, but managing all the moving parts that make up a Division I football program is too much for any one person. Learning to give up direct control and delegate authority is something Spavital is still adjusting to.
“That’s been one of the toughest challenges, because running the offense has been my baby for the longest time. I learned this a long time ago — you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with,” he says. “I’ve got an offensive coordinator, Bob Stitt, who’s called many more games than I have. I wanted to bring in a guy I trusted who had a similar vision to how I think. That allows me time to focus on other things, focus on game management, and focus on the operation of the program.
“Giving up the offense, that’s difficult for me to do. I love calling plays. I get a rush out of that. There’s nothing better. I’ve called close to 70 games in three different Power Five conferences. Not very many people have done that. I love that competitive advantage that you have when you’re calling plays and out there competing,” Spavital says.
“When you flip the role, as head coach you start asking, ‘How can I help my people out? How can I be a servant leader?’ I’ll still be heavily involved with the offense, but I’m not going to step on Bob’s toes. The thing I appreciate about this staff is that we don’t have a lot of egos. It’s all about putting the best product we can out there.”
And the expectations of Bobcat faithful are sky-high. Before Spavital accepted the Texas State job in November, he was at West Virginia University under Dana Holgorsen and was widely considered one of the top offensive coordinators in the country. He had worked with record-setting quarterbacks such as Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State University), Geno Smith (West Virginia University), and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M University). With that kind of résumé, the buzz around Bobcat football is palpable. His calendar is booked solid with alumni events in Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio as well as various high school football clinics around the state. He’s even made time to talk with student groups at Texas State.
“Whenever a new coach comes in, there’s always a sense of excitement. That happens everywhere,” Spavital says. “I’m trying to create some excitement, but when you go and meet these fans, they’re already excited. All they want is to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be a part of a team that is winning and having fun because they have a lot of pride in this university.
“That’s the one thing I’ve seen the most, the pride that these people have. It’s pretty cool to see where these guys want to compete with everyone else in the rest of the state,” he says. “When you have people that believe and are committed to that, chances are that good things are coming your way. ✪