MISSOULA — The Hauck family had a couple special items they needed for their trips to football bowl games over the years.
Those season-ending games fell on or around Christmas, and Montana football coach Bobby Hauck was determined to celebrate the holiday with his family while coaching at Colorado or Washington or another FBS school. His wife, Stacy Hauck, and kids tagged along for the games, as would a packed-up Christmas tree and presents.
They’d then assemble and decorate the tree in their hotel room. When the kids woke up on Christmas morning, Santa had stopped by and left their presents under the tree.
“Like anything else in life, your situation is what you make of it,” Hauck said leading up to Father’s Day while discussing the intersection of college football coaching and fatherhood.
Finding ways to celebrate holidays, birthdays or other special life moments is just one of the issues presented by the college football coaching profession. Unique solutions are oftentimes required, like the Hauck tradition of celebrating Christmas wherever the bowl games were played, whether it was Texas or Hawaii or San Diego.
“Our kids loved bowl games,” he said. “They never felt like they missed out.”
Finding that balance between parental duties and career aspirations can be a struggle. That balancing act can be even more delicate for high-level college football coaches when they work over 100 hours per week during the season while trying to find a harmony of being a good father and pursuing career goals in a cutthroat business, all while living in the public eye.
Hauck’s approach as a coach is about finding that balance between work and parenthood, both for himself and his staff. He’s learned an assist from the wife can go a long way.
“We view football as life and death,” he said, “but really, our most important job is being fathers, both at home and being father figures to our players.”
The good with the bad
When Grizzly assistant coach Shann Schillinger got into coaching major college football in 2014, he had to move away from his wife and child for a couple months.
The Baker native was retired from his NFL playing days for a year when an opportunity came to be a graduate assistant at Nebraska. He pounced on the chance to join the high-level program but had to live on his own until his wife and young child were able to join.
The jump into being a Division I football coach required intense time demands, even when they were back living together. Coaches have non-negotiable expectations, such as being at games, practices, camps, fundraisers, community events and recruiting trips.
For Hauck, that meant missing out on some of his kids’ volleyball or football games. But it’s what has to be done to maintain job security in a highly visible profession where success and failure is dictated by a win column.
“Sometimes I make sacrifices where I’m not around my kids as much, and that can be hard,” Schillinger said. “You feel like you’re almost putting other things in front of them.
“But on the flip side, my kids have opportunities others don’t. They get to be around the players, they get access to the gyms and locker rooms and camps. It’s kind of a fine line of I sacrifice things I can’t be there for, but at the same time, they get some benefits from being part of the Grizzly football family.”
Coaching often means moving jobs regularly and on short notice while climbing a volatile ladder. Griz associate head coach Brent Pease experienced that while making it to the highest level of college football in the SEC as an offensive coordinator.
He moved to eight schools over 18 years, uprooting his children’s lives. He moved his daughter, now 26, from Boise to Florida for a job during her senior year of high school. He later moved his son, now 24, from Florida to Washington for another job during his senior year of high school.
While he jokes that they’re not likely to attend many high school reunions, he felt those experiences set them up for success later in life. Hauck feels the same way about the moving around bettering his twin daughters, who are now living on their own as nurses in Nashville and Dallas.
“Those moves were the toughest thing on my kids, but they were good about it,” Pease said. “They were mature, they understood, they could always visit with older people and never were shy. They experienced things at a younger age, so new places, new people aren’t foreign to them, they know how to adjust and communicate and move on at times.”
Coaching also comes with a bright spotlight as coaches are under a magnifying glass that increases with every move they make toward bigger jobs. When things go well, it’s great, but when things go south, it could affect not only them but their families.
At Florida, Pease was fired in 2013 after the Gators’ first losing season since 1979. He felt bad that his kids had to read, see and hear things about him on social media from people who didn’t know him well as a person.
Schillinger’s children — 7, 5 and 2 years old — are too young to hear too much of that noise. For Hauck, the message to his four kids — his youngest daughter just finished seventh grade and his son Robby is a junior on the UM football team — has been to just shake off what they might hear.
“When Justin Green was playing for us, he went to show and tell at Lewis & Clark Elementary, and all the Hauck kids were pretty popular,” Hauck recalled. “Then there’s the other side of the coin where, ‘Your dad sucks, your dad’s a moron.’ There was some of that, too. They understood it at an early age. I have a good relationship with all my kids, so it was never a big deal.”
When Pease made stops from Boise State to Florida, Baylor to Washington, there often were family get-togethers at the athletic facilities, whether it was Halloween trick-or-treating or Thanksgiving dinners.
Hauck also worked under coaches who preached the importance of family and work-life balance. That informed his approach of how to handle being a head coach as he's put together an 18-month lookahead so everyone on his staff knew when they had free time to do family activities.
“There are guys that have coached Division I college football that don’t know their children, and it’s a crime, it’s terrible. Your kids leave the house to go to college and you don’t know them,” he said. “I was always determined that wasn’t going to happen to me. I don’t want that to be the way for any of our coaches. I’ve always been in pretty good working situations, but I’ve seen it with buddies in different places. I think some of it’s obscene.”
He’ll sometimes kick coaches out of the office around 10 p.m. so that they have to go home and spend some time with their family. It might be rare to kick out Schillinger.
“I think there’s a narrative out there that to be a college coach you have to spend this amount of time and you’re in the office all these times,” Schillinger said. “I don’t want to come across as lazy, but I’m going to get in and get it done. I don’t have any shame of leaving if I get my stuff done.”
With built-in family time, Schillinger has Friday morning family breakfasts. Thursday nights are for big family dinners, and Friday nights during home games are family movie or game nights.
“Those are the things that I make those moments count,” Schillinger said. “If I wasn’t coaching, I don’t know if I would really notice how special those things are.”
Hauck reserves Thursday nights for date nights with his wife. Friday mornings are saved for breakfast with the family; he would then drop his kids off at school.
“I think the key to it is if you’re not at the office doing football work and stuff that the job requires, then you got to be at home,” he said.
“In our jobs, you could work 365 days a year and have stuff to do and never get it all done. There’s always things to work on and improve on, but you have to have time in the calendar that’s sacred for family time and you have to reserve it and you can’t give in on it.”
Hauck has realized his kids don’t necessarily care what he does with them. They’re just happy that he’s around to do things with them. Sometimes they might do outdoor activities. Other times he’d read them a bedtime book; Dr. Seuss was often requested.
Then there was the time he tried to teach his two oldest daughters some math lessons during a summer when they were younger. It didn’t go as he expected.
“Most math teachers don’t yell at their students when they can’t get something right,” he said. “I bought them iPods to ask them for forgiveness after a month of it.”
While Hauck, Schillinger or Pease can be fired as a coach, they can never be fired as a father. But they still want to do that job well.
“I take great pride and honor in being a father,” Schillinger said. “The best title I have is being dad. I love being a dad to three girls. They keep me grounded and busy. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Schillinger felt he was always hard on himself as a player.
That was how he became an All-Big Sky award winner at UM, the 171st pick in the 2010 NFL draft and played four seasons for the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans. Having a kid put football into perspective for him as a coach.
“If I had a daughter when I played, I probably would have been a little more relaxed and see a whole different side of life,” he said. “When I was playing, it was football, and when something went wrong, it ate at me. Now as a coach, it still wears at you and eats at you, but you see whole a whole new different light with kids, and they lighten the mood and relax you more.”
Pease began his coaching career at Montana in 1991 with no kids after playing QB at UM from 1985-86 and in the NFL from 1987-90. When he and his wife had children, he felt he softened up a little as a coach, although there were still no participation trophies given out to his kids.
“My wife always said your kids are not your football players,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Hold on, I’m going to treat them that way. I expect the same thing: be accountable, have good work ethic, understand you’re going to be corrected. I think being raised around sports teaches you better life lessons for being successful in a job. You got to be competitive; there’s nothing wrong with not winning everything, but you got to understand you’re not going to win everything.”
Hauck feels coaching is good preparation for parenting. He began his career at Montana in 1988 after running track for the Griz. he coached for several years at multiple stops before becoming a father.
“If you’re good at this job, you love your players, you want what’s best for them, you want them to have success. I think in good parenting, it’s the same thing,” he said. “I also think in good parenting, you’re not their friend, you’re their parent, and you hold them to account and make sure they’re doing things right, and when they don’t, there’s ramifications and repercussions for not doing things right. I think good coaching is the same way.”
When the Hauck family would celebrate Christmas on their bowl game trips, it was Stacy who would pack up the tree and presents and ship them to the team hotel.
Hauck, Schillinger and Pease all agreed that the wives are the unsung heroes who aid in their success.
“The key to the whole thing is having a good wife,” Hauck said. “If you got a good wife that can help you manage the work schedule, then you’ve got a chance to be a good father.”
Hauck saw that as a child while his father was a high school coach, so he never thought being a coach and father would be impossible to juggle. He later chose coaching over law school and the Marines, finding a wife who helped him in becoming UM’s all-time winningest coach.
“She managed everything so I could go do my thing coaching,” he said. “I’ve got a good gig at home. She’s a business major and runs the family business really well.”
Schillinger also saw how his family functioned with a father who was a high school coach. He knew from a young age he wanted to coach, but that balancing act was something he didn’t fully understand until he dove in.
He noted how his wife, Ericka Schillinger, takes care of things most people never see or know. She’ll take their kids to doctor appointments, pick them up or drop them off places, and much more, all while often running on limited sleep.
“I wouldn’t be able to do this without her,” he said. “She provides love and support and discipline with our kids and myself. She makes life a lot easier for me. She allows me to do what I love, and that’s coach football, so I’m appreciative of what she does for me and our kids.”
For Pease, it was his wife — Paula (Good) Pease, a former UM track star — who managed the family moves, took care of many of the things the kids needed and attended their athletic events he couldn't make so at least one parent was there. That helped make the balancing act of coaching and fatherhood a more stable one for him.
“The balancing part has been done in a great way more from my wife than myself,” he said. “You got to have a good wife in this business. There’s a lot of sacrifices along the way. I look back on it and thank god for my wife.”
Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at email@example.com.