March 30, 2017

(STATS) - Mike Kramer long had an outspoken, sometimes eccentric type of coaching style, so his stepping down as Idaho State coach on Thursday naturally was anything but understated.

Idaho State announced Kramer's retirement, effective immediately, which prevented the 61-year-old from being fired after six seasons.

Former Idaho State offensive coordinator Rob Phenicie, who had recently left for a coaching position at Northern Iowa, will be hired as the Bengals' new coach, athletic director Jeff Tingey said.

"We knew we needed a change of direction," Tingey said at a news conference on campus.

Asked if Kramer hadn't retired Thursday would he still be the coach, Tingey replied, "No."

Kramer, who had eight months left on his contract, was 18-50 at Idaho State, and just 10-38 in Big Sky games. In his one winning season, he led the Bengals to an 8-4 record in 2014 - their only winning mark since 2003 - and was selected as the conference's coach of the year.

He helped bring the Bengals out of the NCAA Academic Progress Rate penalties they were under when he took over in 2011. His teams grew to regularly boast GPAs over 3.0 and have a 95 percent graduation rate, according to the school.

"I think a foundation has been laid and now we need to build upon it," Tingey said.

"He came in and raised the bar. He raised it to the point where it is now. He got us out of academic trouble, out of APR trouble, out of all those things because of his leadership style and some of the things that he did. And I'm very grateful for him. He has prepared us for the next step where we can raise the bar even higher."

Kramer previously coached in the Big Sky at Eastern Washington and Montana State. His career record over 19 seasons was 95-125.

Fired at Montana State in 2006, he filed a lawsuit a year later, arguing that school officials violated the "without cause" clause in his contract. He was awarded a $240,000 settlement in 2010.

Thursday's change was sudden. Idaho State announced on Tuesday that Phenicie, who was the Bengals' wide receivers coach the last two seasons before he was promoted to offensive coordinator in January, had left the program.

"It's his experience tied with the fact that he's been here," said Tingey, who noted Phenicie and the school are still finalizing a contract.

"He's not new to the program, the athletes don't need to get to know him, they don't need to see him in action, they've seen him in action. I know that they like him, I know that they like the leadership that he brings."

Saying Idaho State needs to be more competitive, Tingey praised Phenicie's success at Montana, where he was the offensive coordinator from 2003-09 and helped the Griz reach three FCS national championship games. Phenicie also spent two seasons as UNLV's offensive coordinator and one year as Wyoming's co-offensive coordinator.

Phenicie will also coordinate the offense and handle the quarterbacks. He is taking over a team that was 2-9 overall and last in the 13-team Big Sky during Kramer's final season.

Idaho State is scheduled to begin spring practice April 6.

"I'll say that the timing for all of this isn't perfect - it really isn't, and it never is, it's never the best time," Tingey said. "But this helps us move forward for the betterment of our program, for our student-athletes."

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