The Bulldog: Coach Robin Pflugrad

THE CLOCK READ 10:30 p.m. the first day of fall camp and Washington State's Robin Pflugrad was just leaving the office, his voice nearly gone from a day that saw him arrive at Bohler Gym before 6:30 that morning. Long hours aren't uncommon for any member of the Cougar coaching staff, but there's only one guy Bill Doba affectionately calls, "The Bulldog".

It's an apt nickname. Pflugrad often worked more than 100 hours a week while an assistant at Montana. It's something he says is probably counterproductive -- but difficult to shake.

"He's tried to teach me not to be such a workaholic," said Pflugrad of Doba. "That's hard for me. Coach Doba will come in every couple weeks and say, 'Hey Pflu -- we've got to get you a hobby.' But I think the timing has been good for our staff to have a Bulldog-type guy."

That work ethic has garnered Pflugrad respect wherever he's gone, from Portland State to Montana to Arizona State to Washington State. One high school coach told about a recent conversation with a coach from another Pac-10 school. The college coach, recruiting the state of Washington, said he didn't bother to evaluate the state's prospects. He instead just went off a web's site listing of the prospects Pflugrad was recruiting, saying Pflugrad was known as one of the best talent evaluators on the West Coast.

PERHAPS BEST KNOWN for his work as a recruiting coordinator, Pflugrad has signed the likes of Terrell Suggs, Adam Archuleta and Andrew Walter, bringing five straight nationally ranked recruiting classes to ASU. Receiver Jason Hill, in the midst of rewriting the WSU record book, was lightly recruited but Pflugrad saw something special. Yet his coaching prowess is at least as formidable as he recruiting eye.

In a career that spans 23 years, he's developed award winners in tight end Todd Heap and quarterback Dave Dickinson while coaching quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, defensive backs, special teams, coordinating the offense and calling the plays on game day.

Of course, he's also coached tight ends, a position that's experienced a resurgence under Pflugrad since he arrived at WSU in 2001. Pflugrad, in typical fashion, says the recognition should go to the student-athletes.

"I would contribute a lot of the credit for the resurgence to the players themselves," said Pflugrad. "And coach Rosenbach did a lot of good things at Eastern with the tight ends so that was important to getting them involved here too."

Assistant head coach, Recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Robin Pflugrad.

ASSISTANT HEAD COACH is another of his titles. Running staff meetings in Doba's absence, meticulously managing the budget and scholarships, speaking engagements, media issues and hiring new personnel are some of the responsibilities that come with the role -- as does being a sounding board for Doba.

"I really appreciate that too," said Pflugrad. "It makes me know he values my opinion."

At any given time he'll also be juggling a number of special projects -- all while still making sure WSU dots every i and crosses every t on NCAA paperwork.

"The paperwork has increased immeasurably," said Pflugrad.

HIS LAST PRACTICE as a standout wide receiver and academic All-American at Portland State, coach Mouse Davis let the seniors run part of the session and a spark turned into a flame. A successful sales rep in the Bay Area straight out of college, Pflugrad often found himself driving to some high school, buying a ticket without knowing who was playing. Saturdays, he'd find himself tuning into Stanford or Cal on the radio.

He helped out his old high school football coach in Eugene but had to leave mid-season for a work assignment in the Midwest. Pflugrad then began calling Don Read, the new coach at Portland State. Once every two weeks, once a week, then almost once a day. Read found a place for him, but the only opening was for an unpaid assistant. Luckily, Pflugrad's college roommate, Neil Lomax, wanted someone to stay in his house while he was in Arizona with the Cardinals, so Pflugrad's rent matched his paycheck.

He coached WRs and TEs that year, and fortuitously became promotions director for football, trading airline travel and advertising space to businesses like Horizon Air and Burger King. To this day, he remembers the menu every Monday after practice.

"We'd have two Whoppers, large fries, an apple pie and two large milks," Pflugrad said. "And that was one of my biggest talents, because we did not have a training table back then. I got a lot of food donated so we actually could start a training table."

A GOOD TIGHT ENDS coach, like tight ends themselves, is hard to find. Efficiency is key. You have to be able to maximize and balance the practice plan and repetitions -- because a tight end needs to be an outstanding receiver, run blocker and pass protector.

Coach Robin Pflugrad is known as one of the best talent evaluators on the West Coast.

And a good recruiting coordinator is one who is patient -- every day will be different. Self-confidence and confidence in your staff is a prerequisite, as is the ability to motivate nine other staff members.

"You can go from the highest highs to the lowest lows in 24 hours," said Pflugrad. "The entire landscape can change in a matter of minutes. I try to be the most dependable coach the other staff members have ever worked with, ready to go 24-7. Discipline is tremendously important."

Pflugrad has lost count of the times he's stopped whatever he was doing, including having a late dinner with his family, to solve a challenge. Fog in Pullman? Recruits have to divert to Spokane? Pflugrad has dropped his fork to go pick them up more than on one occasion.

Every minute of the time a recruit spends in Pullman is planned for meticulously by Pflugrad. If a recruit suddenly shows up with five extra people in tow, Pflugrad and the staff will know their names. That's The Bulldog.

The ability to ‘coach the coaches' is critical not only from a head coaching standpoint, but also as a recruiting coordinator.

"We all put in a lot of time here at Washington State," said Pflugrad.

THE MEDIA has reported Pflugrad a candidate for coordinator openings over the years. Mike Price tried to bring him to Alabama. He also was a finalist a few years back for the Montana head job. As he leaves his office Tuesday night the week of the UCLA game, The Bulldog laughs off the inevitable question posed to all assistant coaches. It is 11 p.m.

"As far as career goals, and I believe I'm similar to 99 percent of all assistant coaches, we would all love to be a head football coach at the college level -- and the other one percent is probably lying," chuckles Pflugrad.

"I think I've prepared for opportunities the right way, with a lot of different responsibilities. And I haven't bounced around a lot -- my career has seen longevity at the places I've been. I truly believe I have always put the team above my career."

But with his ability to manage, recruit and coach, some school with a head job opening may come looking for him sooner rather than later.

  • Assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Robin Pflugrad will be on for an online chat today at 11:30 a.m PST. This chat, for CF.C Premium subscribers, promises to be one of the more fascinating of the year. Have your questions ready. Coach Pflugrad will be be visiting CF.C for the scheduled half-hour chat beginning promptly at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. It would be a good idea for Premium members to be in the chatroom at least 10 minutes early. Head to the chatroom by clicking on either link:

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