Glenn a perfect fit for Cowboys

Coach Joe Glenn has done it his way at Wyoming, and his players wouldn't want it any other way.

Updated: October 6, 2005, 5:45 PM ET
By Adam Rittenberg | Special to ESPN.com

With apologies to Woody Hayes and Bear Bryant, some coaches don't need a glossary of profanity, a ceaseless scowl and some inhumane drills to fix a football team. Joe Glenn didn't.

I just feel like I'm a lucky guy in life. I get teased when everybody asks, 'How's it going, coach?' And I say, 'Never had a bad day.'
Wyoming coach Joe Glenn

Glenn's recipe includes a tattooed smile, several G-rated sayings, a piano and the company of old friends. Ignoring the nice-guys-finish-last myth, Glenn has allowed Wyoming to taste success again.

"I just feel like I'm a lucky guy in life," Glenn said. "I get teased when everybody asks, 'How's it going, coach?' And I say, 'Never had a bad day.'"

He's had plenty of great ones at Wyoming. In the last 17 games, the Cowboys have posted three wins over BCS opponents, recorded their first postseason victory in 38 years (over UCLA in the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl) and won seven of their last eight home games. Wyoming is currently 4-1, a record that includes a 24-14 win at Ole Miss.

Glenn has his eye on the Mountain West, a league suddenly as wide-open as its name suggests. The Cowboys could move into sole possession of first place Saturday with a win over Texas Christian.

Three years ago, Wyoming found itself on the other end of the conference standings, finishing last at 1-6 (2-10 overall) in Vic Koenning's final season. The school quickly hired Glenn, who had won the 2001 Division I-AA national title at Montana as well as two Division II titles at Northern Colorado.

"Any time you go into a place that is down a little bit, the toughest turnaround part is mental, how the team feels about themselves," Glenn said. "You have to get that feeling turned around, that you can win and that you have self worth."

Wyoming had the talent in place when Glenn arrived. Biletnikoff Award candidate Jovon Bouknight was a redshirt sophomore, free safety John Wendling was a redshirt freshman and Corey Bramlet had completed his first season as the Cowboys' backup quarterback.

What the Cowboys lacked was confidence, and Glenn was the man to restore it. First, he rinsed the program of nonbelievers and entered 2004 with only 73 scholarship players.

Then, he began to motivate.

"People have come into programs and [it's] been the other way around," Bramlet said. "They can constantly be in your face, yelling and screaming and trying to get you going. Or they can do it coach Glenn's way, being an optimist and always patting us on the back.

"I'm not saying one way's wrong and one way's right, but it's hard to think of it the other way now. His personality really works here."

Why wouldn't a coach high on life succeed in a place (Laramie, Wyo.) that defines itself by its sea-level elevation? "We're kind of in our own little world up here in 7,220 [elevation]," Glenn said.

It's been a perfect world for Glenn, who has brought a sense of community, stability and fun to a program than won just five games between 2000-02. A native of Lincoln, Neb., Glenn was the sixth of 12 children ("Our mom was Catholic and our dad was careless," he joked). Glenn's large-family background is reflected in his coaching staff, which has 113 combined years of service together.

"I don't know how many staffs have been together that long," he said. "I go back to Bob Devaney, a guy that I idolized as a teenager growing up in Lincoln. He brought his assistants from Wyoming, of all places, to Nebraska. Twenty years later, when he handed it over to Tom Osborne, he had the same guys. So that's really been the secret of any success I've had.

"We make pretty good music together."

Glenn actually makes most of the music by himself. He earned the nickname "Piano Joe" as Montana's coach, and he plays on cue at Wyoming functions. His favorite number?

"Are you kidding? Ragtime Cowboy Joe," Glenn said, referring to the Wyoming fight song. "People think it's pretty good. I beat on a piano; I don't play it.

"I have no shame whatsoever."

Glenn said his players rarely listen to him pound the ivory. They don't need to. They're already singing the same tune.

"How he is and how he coaches, it was the best thing that could have happened to us," Bramlet said. "It was really a perfect fit."

Adam Rittenberg covers college football for the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald.