Mike Sanford

Mike Sanford, one of college football’s brightest offensive minds and a former Hilltopper assistant, was named the 20th head football coach at Western Kentucky University on December 14. 

Sanford, a 12-year college coaching veteran who coached quarterbacks on The Hill in 2010, returned to WKU following six seasons of success and achievement at Stanford, Boise State and, most recently, Notre Dame. 

Since taking over the reins of the program in December 2016, Sanford’s mark on the program both internally and externally has been evident from the beginning. Pushed by a program he calls “The Pursuit,” Hilltopper student-athletes and coaches are actively pursuing his five chief program initiatives on a day-to-day basis from the moment they wake up to the minute they go to sleep.

The Pursuit’s 5 Goals

  • Graduate every player.
  • Serve our community relentlessly
  • Win the C-USA Championship
  • Defeat a Power 5 team annually
  • Win a New Year’s 6 bowl game

In his first spring on The Hill, Sanford’s Hilltoppers increased their community service commitment by more than 500 percent over the previous semester with weekly opportunities for WKU football players to go out into the Bowling Green and greater Warren County community.

Academic achievement was also sustained as 75 Hilltoppers saw their grade point average rise in the spring and 39 players posted a 3.0 semester GPA or higher, nearly half of the available roster this past spring.

A former quarterback at Boise State (2000-04), Sanford holds coaching experience from three Fiesta Bowls and two Rose Bowls, along with playing experience in the Humanitarian, Fort Worth and Liberty Bowls. 

With accomplishments at every level, Sanford spent the previous two seasons as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame where he tutored Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer to stellar performances while in South Bend. 

Kizer had near-record breaking marks in Notre Dame single-game history for rushing yards by a quarterback (second), touchdown passes (t-second) and total offense (seventh) to go along with the single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (10) in 2015. Kizer finished his career at Notre Dame with the best per-game total offense average in school history (272.2), the highest points responsible for per-game mark (15.6) and the second-best passing efficiency rating (147.7). 

The Fighting Irish averaged 466.4 yards of total offense per game in 2015, the third-most in program history and the most since 2005, to go along with a near-record 34.2 points per game that season - three points shy of the program record. The year was capped by Sanford’s fifth-consecutive appearance in a New Year’s Six or BCS Bowl Game, the 2016 BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.