Portland State's Barnum goes from interim to FCS Coach of the Year

Dec 7, 2015 - 6:47 PM (STATS) - Bruce Barnum never asked the question when he was named Portland State's interim head coach last offseason, but he felt like everyone began to debate how many wins it would take for him to earn the full-time job.

"I never had a number," Barnum said. "But I heard a lot of, 'If you won four, you're doing a heck of a job,' (and) 'If you win five football games with that schedule ... you'll be Coach of the Year in the Big Sky.'"

By that logic, what would an expectation-shattering nine victories get?

The STATS FCS Coach of the Year award.

It took less than half of the 2015 season for Barnum to shake that pesky interim tag from his title, overseeing such an instantaneous program-turning job at Portland State that in mid-October the university rewarded him with a five-year extension. Two months later, that decision looks like a pretty good investment, as Barnum won a national media vote Monday for pulling off the FCS' most impressive coaching effort this season.

He will be honored at STATS' national awards banquet and presentation in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 8 - the night before the FCS national championship game.

Barnum engineered quite the turnaround in the Great Northwest. The Vikings' offensive coordinator when they finished a mere 3-9 last year, the team improved to 9-2 in the 2015 regular season, capped by a No. 5 national ranking and its second FCS playoff berth - its first since 2000.

And it wasn't just how often the Vikings won, but who they beat. Portland State opened the year by taking down Pac-12 member Washington State and later routed North Texas 66-7 for the largest win ever by an FCS school over an FBS opponent. While finishing in a tie for second place in the Big Sky Conference, "BarnyBall," as it's affectionately called, won five times against FCS Top 25 opponents.

Not surprisingly, Barnum also brought home Big Sky coach of the year honors.

"It's been fun to watch it," Barnum said. "Even after the losses - we lost two games this year - and nothing changed. It wasn't a locker room full of names flying, 'your fault,' fingers pointing … it was, 'Hey, we fixing it? Where we going?' And the next game, they responded."

In the end, the Vikings wound up 9-3 after losing to Northern Iowa in a second-round playoff game last Saturday, but that hardly took the polish off a season that saw Portland State announce itself as a legitimate FCS power with a legitimate full-time coach.

A national panel of 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries voted for the STATS FCS Coach of the Year, selecting a top five among 15 finalists. Their voting reflected the regular season and was conducted before the start of the playoffs.

Jacksonville State's John Grass was a close second to Barnum after his Ohio Valley Conference champion Gamecocks were No. 1-ranked for much of the regular season, going 10-1 with only an overtime loss at Auburn.

McNeese State's Matt Viator was third. His Southland Conference champion Cowboys went 10-0 in the regular season as the only unbeaten team in the FCS.

The final voting results:

1. Bruce Barnum, Portland State: 48-29-20-7-6-436

2. John Grass, Jacksonville State: 44-24-21-16-7-418

3. Matt Viator, McNeese State: 17-24-16-16-20-281

4. Jamey Chadwell, Charleston Southern: 15-16-23-24-19-275

5. Mike Houston, The Citadel: 4-23-26-21-24-256

6. Ed Lamb, Southern Utah: 7-13-13-16-15-173

7. Broderick Fobbs, Grambling State: 6-9-5-11-7-110

8. Ray Priore, Penn: 3-2-5-5-13-61

9. Rick Chamberlin, Dayton: 0-4-6-6-10-56

10. John Stiegelmeier, South Dakota State: 0-0-5-10-12-47

11. Danny Rocco, Richmond: 0-2-3-8-8-41

12. Dan Hunt, Colgate: 1-0-4-5-5-32

13. Jerry Mack, North Carolina Central: 0-2-3-3-2-25

14. Jerry Schmitt, Duquesne: 3-1-0-0-1-20

15. Chris Villarrial, Saint Francis: 2-1-0-2-1-19

A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote four points, a third-place vote three points, a fourth-place vote two points and a fifth-place vote one point.

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