Smith gets different view of Civic Stadium
Oct. 25, 2008
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By JOE SUNNEN - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
For 19 years, Rob Smith paced the sidelines at Civic Stadium with the home stands as a backdrop and an eye toward the opponent on the opposite side.
On Saturday, he'll find out what it's like to coach from the other side of the field at the stadium he called home for so many years.
One thing is for sure, when the former Western Washington football coach leads Humboldt State University into Bellingham on Saturday he won't have any trouble finding his way around.
"It's going to be a little strange standing on the other side of the field," Smith said in a phone interview. "We have so many good friends and good memories from my time in Bellingham and we'll probably see a lot of those friends at the game. The whole thing should be a lot of fun, but the bottom line is this is about the players and we're going there to win a game."
Nearly three years after stepping down as the head coach at WWU following the 2005 season, Smith is trying to turn things around at Great Northwest Athletic Conference rival Humboldt State. The Lumberjacks are off to a 2-6 overall start and 0-5 mark in conference play. WWU defeated Humboldt State 30-14 earlier in the season at Arcata, Calif.
It's been an uphill climb so far for a program that returned the fewest starters of any team in the conference, but it's a challenge that Smith said he's ready to tackle. Re-energized and re-focused, he's looking to turn the Lumberjacks into a contender sooner rather than later.
"It has been a challenge," Smith said. "But it's an exciting challenge. We're looking to turn this program around and really it's kind of similar to how Western was when I first got there. There are a lot of the right things in place here, it's just going to take a little time. I'm really convinced things are headed in the right direction here."
Smith thought he might be ready to put his coaching life behind him when he stepped down at WWU, but after being inducted into the Vikings' Athletic Hall of Fame last season the urge to get back on the sidelines starting pulling at him. When the job at HSU opened up he jumped at it.
"I'm a coach," Smith said. "That's what I do. That's who I am. That fire is still burning."
Smith won't be the only one enjoying a homecoming of sorts. Longtime WWU assistant coach Eric Tripp will also be coming back with the Lumberjacks. Tripp, who is Humboldt State's offensive coordinator, worked at WWU for 14 seasons and was also the athletic director at Meridian High School for a year.
The game will also be special for both of the coaches because it's the last game for 16 WWU seniors, many of which the two helped to recruit and coach early in their careers.
"You might catch me peaking out of the locker room when the seniors are being introduced," Smith said.
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