While the official announcement of Aaron Pflugrad's promotion to offensive coordinator has yet to come, Northern Arizona appears to have found his replacement.
Sources say Aaron's father Robin Pflugrad will take over his son's wide receiver coach position on the Lumberjacks coaching staff, with FootballScoop.com the first to report the hire. Northern Arizona also will soon announce Jalil Brown as its new defensive secondary coach.
The elder Pflugrad attended high school with Northern Arizona head coach Jerome Souers as the two grew up together in Oregon. They coached together at Portland State in the mid-1980s before both moved to Montana and coached together for nearly another decade. The two were on the Grizzlies coaching staff at Montana when newly hired Northern Arizona vice president for intercollegiate athletics Mike Marlow worked at the university as well.
Robin Pflugrad returns to the Big Sky Conference five years after he spent the 2013-14 season as Weber State’s offensive coordinator. During his tenure at Weber State, the NCAA imposed a one-game suspension after receiving a show-clause for his time as Montana’s head coach.
After stops at Arizona State, Washington State and Oregon -- when Marlow worked for that university as well -- Pflugrad was promoted to replace Bobby Hauck as Montana's head coach in 2010. Pflugrad spent two seasons as the Grizzlies head coach before being let go after an 11-3 record in the 2011-12 season.
Both Pflugrad and then athletic director Jim O’Day were fired amid scrutiny for the school’s handling of sexual assault allegations involving the department. A 2012 report by the Missoulian stated allegations of rape involving several athletes surfaced during the previous season, leading to an independent investigation by Diane Barz, a former Montana Supreme Court Justice. The investigation showed nine sexual assaults involving Montana students had been investigated, including a December 2010 incident in which two women alleged they were drugged and gang raped by members of the football team.
No players were charged with a crime in that incident or for a separate alleged gang rape that became public knowledge when Montana was set to play in the FCS semifinals in 2011.
Another allegation against the team's starting quarterback, Jordan Johnson, included a student taking out a restraining order against him early in 2012, as she claimed he sexually assaulted her. A civil no-contact agreement between Johnson’s lawyer and that of his alleged victim dismissed the temporary restraining order, though Johnson was to avoid all contact with the student, and temporarily allowed the quarterback to return to practice before missing the 2012 season when charges were officially filed.
Pflugrad spoke highly about the return of Johnson, who denied the rape allegation through his lawyer, was eventually found not guilty and settled a $245,000 lawsuit against the school for mishandling the investigation against him. However, Pflugrad was let go by the university less than a week later.
The show-clause punishment for Pflugrad at Weber State came as a part of a separate incident while at Montana, as the NCAA said he failed in his duties to monitor the football program. Among other issues, the October 2011 arrests of Trumaine Johnson and Gerald Kemp led to a booster posting the $340 bond for the two at the request of one of the player's grandfathers, who later repaid her. An attorney then provided each with about $1,500 in free legal representation after a student employee in the football office told the players his mother was a lawyer. The two were arrested as police tried to break up a party, leading to officers using stun guns on the players.
Pflugrad was one of five finalists for the head coaching position at the NAIA’s Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana. Passed up for the job in 2016, Pflugrad has coached at Phoenix College since 2015 despite Montana president Royce Engstrom giving him a letter of recommendation praising the coach’s ability and personality and “was not the result of any specific impropriety or improper conduct by him."
ON THE DEFENSIVE SIDE
Brown's hiring fills the spot of Vernon Smith Jr., who was let go after one year with the Lumberjacks.
Northern Arizona’s fifth cornerbacks coach in the past six seasons, Brown arrives from Boise State, where he served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. A graduate of South Mountain High School in Phoenix, Brown played for five years at Colorado before being drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Also spending time with the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins, Brown finished his NFL career in 2016.
Brown played with former Northern Arizona defensive backs coach Cha’pelle Brown at Colorado under current UC Davis head coach Dan Hawkins and was an All-Big 12 honorable mention in his final two years with the Buffaloes.