Montana head football coach Bobby Hauck has built his staff with coaches that hold a lot of ties to the Grizzly football program and the state of Montana.
While his newest staff addition may not have any direct ties to the program, Hauck has been trying to team up with him for almost his entire head coaching career.
After some near misses in Missoula a decade ago and years spent on opposite sidelines, Hauck will finally join forces with coaching veteran Kent Baer, who has been hired as the Grizzlies’ next defensive coordinator.
“Coach Baer is a highly respected defensive mind in the world of college football,” said Hauck. “I coached against him at many different stops over the years, and even tried to hire him twice previously at Montana. He has more experience than some entire staffs around the country, and I am thrilled he has chosen to join us and lead our defense.”
A two-time nominee and a 2002 finalist for the Frank Broyles award for the nation’s top assistant, Baer comes to Montana from UNLV with nearly 45 years of coaching experience at the highest levels of college football.
Baer is a native of Logan, Utah, and a member of the Utah State Hall of Fame – inducted in 2017 alongside former Griz basketball coach Stew Morrill.
He has had served as the defensive coordinator for nine different FBS programs and returns to the FCS/DI-AA ranks for the first time since 1986 when he was the defensive coordinator at Idaho.
“Growing up around the Mountain West, I always knew how rabid Montana fans are, and thought it would be a tremendous place to coach,” said Baer. “Coach Hauck is a great head coach, and he is putting together a great staff. I am very excited to finally be a part of it.”
Baer has coached in nine bowl games during his career, as well as the Division I-AA playoffs in his lone year with the Vandals. In three of those bowl seasons his teams finished the year ranked in the Associated Press Top 25: California (16, 1991), Notre Dame (17, 2002) and San Jose State (21, 2012).
Known for an emphasis in stopping the run, Baer has produced several of the nation’s top defenses.
As the defensive coordinator at Arizona State in 1992, Baer’s Sun Devil defense ranked No. 7 nationally in total defense, allowing less than 269 yards per game and four yards per play.
In 2002 at Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish ranked No. 9 nationally in scoring defense, No. 10 in pass efficiency defense and rush defense, and No. 13 in total defense, allowing just five rushing touchdowns all year. He was recognized that season as one of five Broyles Award finalists.
During San Jose State’s improbable 11-2 season in 2012, the Spartans finished with the No. 24 best overall defense in the nation and the No. 19 rush defense, allowing less than 345 yards per game and finishing the year ranked in the top five in seven different categories en route to a Military Bowl victory over Bowling Green and. He was also nominated for the Broyles Award that season and served as SJSU’s interim head coach after Mike MacIntyre left for Colorado.
Baer says he hopes to bring the same stamp of physicality to his defenses at Montana.
“We are going to hang our hat on two main things: we’re going to play hard, and we’re going to be physical. I think that’s what Montana has been known for in the past and I think we can do that again. I’m excited about it,” he said.
He has coached under several of the greatest head coaches in college football, including Bruce Snyder (Utah State, Cal, Arizona State), Keith Gilbertson (Idaho), Tyrone Willingham (Stanford, Notre Dame, Washington), and Dick Tomey (San Jose State). He also coached under MacIntyre, the 2016 Pac-12 and AP Coach of the Year, at SJSU and CU.
Snyder gave Baer his first college coaching job in 1977, coaching Utah State’s outside linebackers for six seasons before being named defensive coordinator in 1983. After one season at Idaho, he rejoined Snyder at Cal where he served as the Golden Bears’ DC for five seasons (1987-91).
He then followed Snyder to Arizona State until 1994 when he was hired by Willingham at Stanford to coach the linebackers. He then orchestrated Willingham’s defenses for nine-straight seasons, stating in Palo Alto (1999-2001), followed by stints at Notre Dame (2002-04) and Washington (2005-07).
In 2008, he joined Dick Tomey’s staff at San Jose State as linebacker coach, and when MacIntyre took over the program in 2010, Baer stayed on as defensive coordinator.
Baer was a standout linebacker at Utah State. A three-time letterman, he led the team in tackles as a senior with 114 during the Aggie’s 8-3 season. He graduated in 1973 with a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Recreation.
After graduating, he moved to Japan where he was the head football coach for Yokosuka Seahawks from 1973-76 (a member of a service league featuring military bases). He was the director of athletics and recreation for the commander of naval forces there before returning to Utah State.
He graduated from Sky View High School in Smithfield, Utah, where he lettered in football, basketball, and baseball. He has three adult sons, Brian, Aaron James (A.J.) and Steven. His son A.J. coached alongside him at both San Jose State and Colorado, serving as the director of recruiting.
The Baer File:
Hometown: Logan, Utah
Alma Mater: Utah State ’73 – Physical Education and Recreation
Playing Experience: Utah State, 1969-1972 – Linebacker
Family: Sons Brian, Aaron James (A.J.), Steven.
1973-76 – Yokosuka Seahawks (HC)
1977-82 – Utah State (OLB)
1983-85 – Utah State (DC/DB)
1986 – Idaho (DC)
1987-91 – California (DC)
1992-94 – Arizona State (DC)
1995-98 – Stanford (LB)
1999-2001 – Stanford (DC)
2002-04 – Notre Dame (DC)
2004 -Notre Dame (interim HC)
2005-07 – Washington (DC)
2008-09 – San Jose State (LB)
2010-12 – San Jose State (DC/LB)
2012 – San Jose State (interim HC)
2013-14 – Colorado (DC)
2015-17 – UNLV (DC/LB)
2018-Present – Montana (DC)
Bowl Games/Postseason (season, not year of bowl game)
1986 – I-AA Playoffs
1990 – Copper Bowl
1991 – Citrus Bowl
1995 – Liberty Bowl
1996 – Sun Bowl
1999 – Rose Bowl
2001 – Seattle Bowl
2003 – Gator Bowl
2004 – Insight Bowl*
2012 – Military Bowl*
*= Interim Head Coach
NOTEABLE PLAYERS COACHED: Patrick Allen, CB; Eddie Cade, DB; Shante Carver, LB; Justin Cole, LB; Chris Draft, LB; Hal Garner, LB; Dashon Goldson, DB; Mike Hamby, DT; Jon Haskins, LB; Steve Hendrickson, LB; Willie Howard, DL; Riall Johnson, LB; Paul Lavine, DB; Craig Newsome, DB; Derrick Rodgers, LB; Aaron Smith, LB; Al Smith, LB; Derek Smith, LB; Shawn Swayda, DT; Pat Tillman, LB; Justin Tuck, DE; Scott Von der Ahe, LB; Brett Wallerstedt, LB; Courtney Watson, LB; Jerrott Willard, LB; Tank Williams, LB; Coy Wire, LB; Keith Smith, LB
NFL Players/Draft Picks: 28
Press release written by Eric Taber, Montana sports information. Photos attributed.