Jason Petrino named Rocky football coach

Jason Petrino (Photo by Bob Zellar, The Billings Gazette)

BILLINGS — After receiving a unanimous recommendation from Rocky Mountain College Director of Athletics Bruce Parker and the search committee, President Bob Wilmouth officially approved today the hiring of Jason Petrino to become the Battlin’ Bears’ 17th head football coach.

Petrino accepted the position via phone with Parker this morning, from his home in Vermillion, S.D. He comes to Rocky after spending the past four years as the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach under legendary coach Joe Glenn at the University of South Dakota.

d“This has been a very educational process and we were fortunate to have an outstanding search committee, who waded through 90-plus applications,” Parker said.

Parker added: “We are very excited with the selection of Jason Petrino as our next head football coach. He has tremendous experience and has been mentored by a number of outstanding collegiate football coaches.”

“I love Jason’s enthusiasm and organization, and I am excited to have him and his family join the Rocky community. The future looks bright for Battlin’ Bears football.”

The 39-year-old will replace Brian Armstrong, who is now an assistant coach for the Montana State University Bobcats. The Battlin’ Bears, who finished 5-6 this season, were 38-40 during Armstrong’s seven-year stint as the head coach.

Petrino was selected from a candidate pool of over 90 candidates. Other candidates who received on-campus interviews were Matt Hollowell, Mark Samson and Zach Tinker. The final candidate, former University of Montana head coach, Robin Pflugrad, withdrew his name from consideration early this morning to pursue other opportunities.

“The high quality of these five candidates is truly a testament to the strength of the Rocky Mountain College football tradition,” Parker said. “We are grateful for each coach’s time and enthusiasm as we worked toward finding the best fit for our program.”

The Petrino name is well known in Montana coaching circles. Jason’s uncle Bob was an NAIA Hall of Fame coach at Carroll College, and his own father Mike coached at Forsyth, Wolf Point at Carroll. Petrino graduated from Flathead High School in Kalispell. His cousin Bobby is the head football coach at Louisville and another cousin Paul is the head football coach at the University of Idaho.

Both of Petrino’s brothers are college coaches. Mike Petrino is an assistant women’s basketball coach at the University of Colorado, while Jared is an assistant coach for the Black Hills State football program.

“Jason comes from a great coaching pedigree,” Parker said.

This season at USD, the Petrino-led defense was fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference, considered the best FCS league, for total defense and third for passing defense. The Coyotes allowed just 25.5 points a game, and finished 5-6 and 3-5 in the MVC. One of the wins was over current and five-time national champion North Dakota State in Fargo, 24-21.

Petrino began his coaching career at his alma mater, Carroll College, as Mike Van Diest’s secondary coach, and helped the Saints to their first-ever national title in 2002. He then moved to the University of Wyoming for a year, where he coached the safeties. In 2005, Petrino became the defensive coordinator at the University of Mary. In 2008 he returned to Wyoming where he worked his first stint under Joe Glenn. After short stays at Winona State in Minnesota, Nebraska-Omaha (dropped football four weeks after being hired) and at the University of Central Oklahoma, Petrino was reunited with Glenn at USD.

Petrino is excited about his first head coaching position.

“As a player and coach competing against Rocky, I always knew Rocky was special, who provides lots of opportunities for their student athletes,” Petrino said.

“Going through the process I felt the passion and energy from those people I met while on campus,” Petrino added. “Because of this energy, from President Wilmouth, to Bruce Parker and the search committee, me and my family are super excited to not only be a part of the Rocky Mountain College campus and the community of Billings, we are excited to be back in the great state of Montana.”

“Coach Armstrong has already laid a great foundation and I look forward to taking the Rocky Mountain program to a higher level. In my meeting with the players, you could sense their willingness to do whatever it takes to be successful. I love their mindset. They are ready to get to work and I’m ready to get to work right with them.”

The announcement will be made public at a press conference scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in the Hall of Fame room in the Fortin Center.

— Rocky Mountain College

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