Yesterday we informed Griz Nation via our website and social media outlets that football strength and conditioning coach Rob Oviatt had left the team due to personal reasons. Coach Oviatt served in his position at Grizzly Athletics for four seasons.
I quite often say that I don’t get too close to the coaches. They are busy doing their thing and I am busy doing my thing. While there are some exceptions (I am friends with some of the younger coaches) I never developed much of a relationship with Rob. Of course that had nothing to do with conflicting personalities or a feud, our paths just didn’t cross that much. He was always very gracious when I would bring down groups of young children through the weight room for tours and of course I would see him on a daily basis in the athletic department or out in the stadium but it never led to in-depth discussions about life.
So why am I writing a blog post about Rob Oviatt if I really never had a connection with him? Well, I actually do have a connection that I will get to later but that is not the answer to my question. Rather, I am just writing to say I am sad to see him go because of the reputation and experience he brought to Grizzly Athletics.
Out of everyone in our athletic department, no one matched the resume of Rob Oviatt when it came to experience at top-tier athletic programs across the nation. Not any coach, not any administrator, not any marketer, not any trainer, etc. The places that Coach Oviatt not only worked at but succeeded at would make anyone with just a smidge of intercollegiate athletics knowledge take immediate notice. While he headed the strength and conditioning programs at Pac-12 schools like Oregon State and Washington State, he also worked for several powerhouse football schools as well. We are talking about places such as Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and LSU. During his time at the University of Kentucky he was twice voted the SEC Strength Coach of the Year (1997 and 1998). Yep, during his 30+ year career he left his mark all across the nation.
Although I am not qualified to determine what a successful strength program constitutes, others rate his work here at Montana as outstanding. Probably legitimizing that sentiment the most is our head football coach who didn’t even originally hire Oviatt. According to Dave’s release, Mick Delaney credited Coach Oviatt with conditioning the team in such a way that only two players this past season went down with season ending injuries, a rarity for any football program at any level. Mick also noted the high amount of respect that all the players had for him.
I just find it cool that our athletes and staff got to experience the work of a guy who coached at the very highest level of college football and was recognized as the best at his trade. If you worked in our department you would find out that several people have their own good-natured colorful stories and memories of Rob. Mine would be just watching him out at practice monitoring his stop watch and sounding the air horn for practice session changes while also welcoming and chatting with the NFL scouts that would come by to watch practice. He knew them all.
But I do have one more memory and it regards the connection I mentioned at the start of this post. During my junior and senior years of high school my football team would travel over to Pullman, Washington, for the Washington State summer team camp. The head strength and conditioning coach of the Cougars at that time was no other than Rob Oviatt. Over the course of those four days in both 2003 and 2004, Coach stretched us out before each practice session under the hot Pullman sun. Then, later in the evenings, we linemen would report to the football weight room and he would put us through a mini workout session. I remember him and the other guy helping to run things made it perfectly clear to us that any collegiate gear other than Washington State apparel was not allowed in the facility…they were always really nice about it.
Of course in my high school state I looked on at college football strength and conditioning coaches with a certain awe and reverence. If you told my 16 year old self that I one day would be on the same payroll as Coach Oviatt I would probably tell you to get out of town.
Best of luck, Rob Oviatt. Griz Nation sends its best wishes to you and your family. Don’t Blink.