Zone Read: Charlie Ragle Unplugged

Arizona Sports News online

Charlie Ragle’s coaching path has gone from Arizona State, to Chaparral High, to Arizona, to Cal, and now Idaho State where he was named the Bengals new head coach about two weeks before Christmas.

“Zone Read” caught up with the affable Ragle for an in-depth interview on his past, present, and future.

How did you hear about the opening at Idaho State? 

“Well, it’s kind of a funny story. I had reached out to Coach Koetter (former Arizona State head coach) just inquiring about a couple of jobs and picking his brain. He sent me back some information and then the next day he said, ‘Hey, call me.’ Then he said there was a job at Idaho State. They’re doing the right things from an administrative standpoint and I think you would be a good possibility for the job. They need a tireless worker and someone who will be able to recruit. The President and the Athletic Director are on board. So, that’s how I found out about it.”

Idaho State has had little, to no, football success over the past several years. What makes you think you’re the guy to turn it around?

“I think there are a couple of things. I went back 22 years and [ISU’s] winning percentage is 32 percent. I asked my President and AD, ‘Why now?’ Why is this the time that we can be successful. You know me and for a lot of people that know me, life is about relationships. When I sat down and met with the President and AD, they said, very candidly, there has been a disconnect between the two over the years. The President who came from Boise State understands what football can do for a University. The AD [Pauline Thiros] is a winner. She’s from [Idaho]. Six-time state champion volleyball coach. She wants to win and she’s not scared to work. That was important to me. Your AD has to be your sidekick…I go back to being the head coach at Chaparral. The reason we were successful was because we had a lot of great people. They allowed my vision to grow. They believed in it.”

What did you tell your new team the first time you met with them?

“I just told them, ‘Hey, it’s a new day of ISU football.’ Whatever you think you are or whatever they thought you were, it’s over. Very seldom in life are you able to do the same thing and I told them, ‘Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life as it pertains to ISU football.’ So, whatever you think you can be or whatever you want to be, you have that opportunity again to be that person at Idaho State. That was my main message…we have to do the little things right for us to have a chance to win, big picture.”

Is there college football talent in Idaho at the high school level?

“There is…I think between Idaho and Utah you can find a lot of good talent, especially at the FCS level. And so, I’m used to big, vast states growing up in New Mexico so it’s not a big deal for me to get in the car and drive 50-60 miles in between towns. You’ve got to want to grind it out. You have to want to do those little things to find talent. But I do think there is talent here and we’re going to do our [best] to make sure we’re covering corner to corner every little town in the state to find those players. Boise State can only take so many. So we’re going to make sure every one that doesn’t go to Boise State comes here.”

You recruited and signed so many players from here in the Valley when you were at Arizona and Cal. How does your approach change now recruiting to a FCS Big Sky school?

“It doesn’t change from the sense that it’s all about relationships. We will be a little slower in the process as it filters out because, obviously, at places like Cal and UofA, you’re shooting for the top-tier guys. The goal is to make this place an attractive place where pushing the limits of the FCS, the borderline Group of 5 guys and fighting for those guys in that arena, so-to-speak. You can be a little more diligent and a little more patient…we have to be cognizant and diligent to what’s going on in the [transfer] portal and maybe sneak a kid or two out of there. And then, the junior college ranks as well to look for some guys who can help us immediately.”

Are you still going to prioritize Arizona for your recruiting, as it’s been in the past?

“Absolutely. That’s home to me. I told someone the other day. [NAU head coach] Chris Ball is a good friend of mine and I know “Pflu” [NAU offensive coordinator Aaron Pflugrad] and a lot of guys on that staff. My number one job is to be a pain in their rear. I want to make those guys sweat. I know there’s a lot of talent from Tucson, to Phoenix, and all the way up north to Flagstaff. We just signed a kid to Cal from Flagstaff. There’s a lot of talent in the state of Arizona and we’re definitely going to be in there and get our fair share to play for us at Idaho State.” 

Is the transfer portal good for college football?

“There needs to be some stipulations with it, I believe. At the end of the day, when you look at it, you just see the big dogs so-to-speak. It certainly becomes an ecosystem, right?  The rich get richer. I don’t know how you manage that just yet. I’m all for players having opportunities to expand their horizons but in a game of team football, it’s tough because you’re trying to preach unity and togetherness as a team and, if things don’t go well, I can just hop in the portal and get out of there. The reality is there’s more kids in the portal than there are opportunities. I’m all for kids having opportunities. Coaches have opportunities. I don’t want to clamp that down but there’s got to be a better way to manage it because I think, in the end, it’s ultimately going to hurt college football in the long run.”

So what’s this about you first drawing up plays when you played Tecmo Bowl as a little kid growing up in New Mexico? 

“I knew at a very young age that if I couldn’t play sports, I wanted to be a coach. A lot of people don’t know this but my first love was basketball. I used to go to a lot of clinics and basketball camps in the summer. From Arizona State, Arizona, UTEP – when the great Don Haskins was there. When New Mexico State was making their runs to the Sweet 16 in the early 90’s with Neil McCarthy. I loved hoops. It was between Double Dribble and Tecmo Bowl drawing up plays. As I grew and got older, my basketball prowess wasn’t as good as my football prowess…so, I went by the way of football. That’s true, I would dress up in fancy clothes and I go out and try to execute the plays on Nintendo. I’d try to do it in our backyard with my brother. My brother was the test dummy. It’s a life long dream to be where I’m at and I’m super excited to be here.”