Last week when the news spread that Brian Watts was leaving his position as head coach at Oregon State for the job at Army, it raised a few eyebrows. It’s not often a coach leaves the Pac-10 – the nation’s best golf conference – to join the Patriot League.
Watts had just finished his ninth season as head coach in Corvallis, where he guided the Beavers to a tie for 16th place at the NCAA Championship a few weeks ago at The Honors Course.
“Ninety percent of people I have talked to, they get it,” Watts said.
What they “get” is why he would leave. The situation certainly takes some explaining.
“I have been here nine years as head coach and the program was good when I took over, and I feel where I am in my career, this opportunity is much greater than the game of golf,” Watts said. “Developing young people and being part of something much bigger than the game of golf is something I look forward to.”
Watts and his wife Carrie have three daughters: Madeline (14), Olivia (12) and Alexandra (8). He is excited that his family will live at West Point, and that his daughters will get a top-notch education.
“Myself and my family just felt like it was a great move, and obviously there will be different challenges and that’s a part of life,” he said. “It helps develop who you are and build character.”
The golf program at Army is nowhere near the level his Oregon State teams have reached, even in “down” years. This past season, Army was No. 243 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. The Black Knights’ best season-ending ranking in the past 10 years was No. 159 in 2001-02. The average difference in final season rankings between Oregon State and Army in the last nine years is 148.
For Watts, this move is not about national rankings or winning a national championship. It’s about the opportunity to work with future leaders of our country and help develop them into men.
When asked what his toughest challenge may be at Army, Watts was quick to mention that not having a military background might make it hard when recruiting players to West Point.
It’s important to Watts that he understand exactly what his recruits will go through if they choose to play for him at Army. Watts, 46, plans to go through whatever his body is capable of doing. That will include many of the day-to-day activities the cadets take part in.
There is one more thing. With no military background, Watts has never experienced what it might be like to be in a foreign land defending his country. Not a problem. When officials at West Point told him they could put him on a plane to Iraq to see just what it’s like, he accepted the offer.
He also told officials that a golf simulator would help the team during the winter months. They plan to purchase one.
“The support system in place and energy there is amazing – its a special place, an intriguing place,” Watts said. “They are all on the same page and everyone is working together towards the same goals and that’s to develop young men and women.”