From the desk of Tim Harkins
Wyoming Athletic Department
Laramie -- Wyoming head football coach Craig Bohl announced on Tuesday that Willie Mack Garza is joining the Cowboy coaching staff as safeties coach. Garza previously coached with Bohl at North Dakota State for four seasons (2005-08), serving as the defensive coordinator for the Bison his last three seasons. Garza will be entering his 24th season as a college football coach in 2019.
During Garza’s time working with Bohl at North Dakota State, the Bison compiled a 33-11 (.750) record, had two 10-1 seasons and defeated FBS schools Minnesota, Ball State and Central Michigan.
“We are excited about the body of work and experience that Coach Garza brings to our coaching staff,” said Bohl. “Willie Mack and I have enjoyed a long relationship through the years. He is a seasoned coach, who had a lot to do with our defensive success at North Dakota State, and he is very experienced in coaching within our system.
“I do want to make one thing clear, Willie Mack has acknowledged a mistake he made 10 years ago that resulted in him being disciplined by the NCAA for a recruiting violation. Since then, he has been reinstated by the NCAA. We have a reputation of holding ourselves to high ethical standards here at the University of Wyoming, and I expect Coach Garza to follow those high standards.”
In November 2012, the NCAA infractions committee imposed a three-year “show-cause” order upon Garza in connection with a recruiting violation he was involved in at the University of Tennessee in June 2009. That “show-cause” order limited Garza’s ability to accept another job at an NCAA school during that three-year period.
“Our compliance staff has worked with the NCAA to gain a thorough understanding of exactly what occurred in relation to Coach Garza’s ‘show-cause’ order,” said Tom Burman, UW Director of Athletics. “Our compliance staff also reached out to other schools who have hired coaches who previously had ‘show-cause’ orders imposed upon them to get a better understanding of education they provided to those coaches and other processes they put in place. We are committed to bring in the best coaches available to help our student-athletes and our teams succeed, but we will never compromise our standards in regard to doing things the right way here at Wyoming.”
Garza showed appreciation for being given a chance to return to the Division I level.
“First and foremost this is a blessing that Coach (Craig) Bohl and the University of Wyoming Athletics Department has provided me this opportunity to come coach here,” said Garza. “I love coaching. It is in my blood. I love being around the players and the other coaches, going into the WAR Room and preparing. This is also an opportunity for me to provide a platform for young men to be successful on and off the football field in the four to five years that they are here and for the rest of their lives.
“I take this opportunity very seriously. It has been a blessing that I was fortunate enough to have met Coach Bohl back in 2005 when I was a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator for him. We developed a bond and a relationship that will last a lifetime. That is what this profession is all about. We’ve stayed in touch, and when this opportunity came we talked about it, and I’m excited to be in Wyoming.
“I grew up in a little town in south Texas called Refugio, where ranching and rodeos were very important. I look forward to learning more about the state and the university. I look forward to embracing this culture and its people. I know there are great people here.”
With the addition of Garza to the Wyoming coaching staff to coach the safeties, UW defensive coordinator Jake Dickert will shift to coaching the Cowboy linebackers in addition to continuing in his role as defensive coordinator.
Garza coached at Dixie State in St. George, Utah for the 2017 and ‘18 seasons. He served as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Dixie State in 2018 after serving as the defensive pass-game coordinator and defensive backs coach in 2017. Following the 2018 season, he was hired as the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Texas A&M Commerce in January of 2019, prior to accepting his new position with the Cowboys.
Garza spent the 2016 season as the cornerbacks coach at Lamar University, and in 2015 he coached the linebackers and served as special teams coordinator at Prairie View A&M.
Garza coached two seasons, 2013 and 2014, at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, Miss., where he served as the team’s defensive coordinator. During his time at Pearl River, Garza helped develop one of the nation’s top defensive units. PRCC ranked fifth nationally in scoring defense and 10th in pass defense.
He coached the defensive backs at the University of Southern California for one season in 2010. Prior to his stint at USC, Garza spent 2009 as the defensive backs coach at Tennessee. The Volunteers ranked 12th nationally in both fewest passing yards allowed and pass defense efficiency as they finished second in the SEC East and made an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Before moving to Tennessee, Garza spent four years (2005-09) at North Dakota State as the secondary coach for one season and the defensive coordinator in his final three. He served on the staff of current Wyoming head coach Bohl at NDSU during a period when the Bison were transitioning from the NCAA Division II level up to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level where they would become the dominant program in FCS.
The season prior to his four-year run at NDSU, Garza coached the secondary at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, in 2004. That season was preceded by three seasons coaching the cornerbacks at TCU from 2001-03. During his time with the Horned Frogs, Garza coached two-time All-Conference cornerback Jason Goss, who tied the school single-season record with eight interceptions in 2002.
TCU captured the 2002 Conference USA Championship and played in bowl games all three seasons that Garza was on the coaching staff. The Horned Frogs appeared in the 2001 Gallery Furniture.com Bowl in Houston, won the 2002 AXA Liberty Bowl in Memphis and played in the 2003 PlainsCapital Fort Worth Bowl, which is now known as the Armed Forces Bowl
Garza’s first full-time college coaching position came at Western Michigan from 1997-2000. WMU achieved a 9-3 record in 2000, ranked No. 13 in the nation in pass defense and played in the Mid-American Conference Championship game.
He began his coaching career at the University of Texas, his alma mater, as a graduate assistant working with the cornerbacks and special teams for three seasons from 1994-96 under head coach John Mackovic. The Longhorns went 8-4 in 1994 and won the Sun Bowl; posted a 10-2-1 record in 1995 and played in the Sugar Bowl; and were 8-5 in 1996, won the inaugural Big 12 Championship Game and played in the Fiesta Bowl.
As a college player, he was a four-year starter at cornerback and safety at Texas for the 1988, ‘90, ‘91 and 92 seasons under then head coach David McWilliams. Garza was named a Freshman All-American and the Southwest Conference Newcomer of the Year in 1988. The Longhorns went 10-2 in 1990 and played in the Cotton Bowl at the end of the season.
Garza was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 2001. He enjoyed a stellar prep career at Refugio High School where he earned Parade All-America, All-State and All-Decade (1980-1990) honors. In his senior season in 1987, Garza rushed for an amazing 2,954 yards and scored a then national record 56 touchdowns (336 total points). In addition to football, Garza was a track and field standout at Refugio, running the 100, 200 and a leg on the 400-meter relay and was one of the state’s top long jumpers. Refugio High School won the Texas 2A Boys State Track and Field Championship his junior year of 1986-87, and was the State Runner-up for the 2A State Football Championship his senior season of 1987.
He received his bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Texas in 1993.