Bill Bedenbaugh spent his formative football years in St. Charles, arriving as a seventh-grader in the mid-1980s before helping stabilize St. Charles High’s offensive line.
He figured he’d see more of Chicagoland after college graduation. Then came a fortunate phone call that has spurred a series of others.
Last week, Bedenbaugh helped scheme Oklahoma past Sugar Bowl favorite Alabama as OU’s first-year offensive line coach. Almost 19 years ago, he began his college coaching career in the same position at Oklahoma Panhandle State when a coach departing his alma mater, Iowa Wesleyan, offered a surprise position.
“It’s one of those things where you do the best job you can wherever you’re at,” Bedenbaugh said, “and then, for whatever reason, people kind of take notice.”
If it lands you in Boomer Sooner country, all the better.
The Sugar Bowl marked the 13th bowl game in which Bedenbaugh has coached. The first seven came at Texas Tech, where his Iowa Wesleyan coach, Mike Leach, cultivated a pass-happy offensive pedigree that since has taken Leach to Washington State.
Before landing in Lubbock, Texas – and, subsequently, NCAA Division I campuses at Arizona, West Virginia and Oklahoma – Bedenbaugh began his ascent on the smaller-school circuit. He admittedly thought lining fields, mopping weight room floors and driving buses at Panhandle State – “You know, all those things that you don’t do at Oklahoma,” Bedenbaugh said – would be standard wherever he went.
That’s helped him savor the OU experience even more after first getting a taste from Texas Tech’s Big 12 rivalry with the Sooners. Bedenbaugh figures he and wife Maryde, an Oklahoma native, could be in Norman for awhile alongside daughter Lacy and son William.
“I mean, do you have aspirations and things like that, yeah? But you do the best job wherever you are and you work as hard as you can wherever you are and then if opportunities arise, then you kind of evaluate them and see where you’re at with them,” Bedenbaugh said. “There’s been a lot of opportunities that have come up and different situations I haven’t pursued, for whatever reason, so you’ve just got to find what the best thing for you and your family is.
“But the thing, you know, when you get to a place like Oklahoma, in reality, to me and to most people around the country ... there’s not much better than this. So there’s really, in my mind, nowhere to go from here.”
Much of Bedenbaugh’s family remains rooted in St. Charles, including his parents and brother, Ken, who works at the Norris Center as a facilities manager. Another brother, Jake, lives in Lake Geneva, Wis. Bedenbaugh has three half-brothers in South Carolina.
The Palmetto State never was a stop on the Bedenbaugh coaching tour, but it is one of the hubs of the Southeastern Conference, a league that also houses Alabama and what Sooners coach Bob Stoops has deemed lots of unnecessary hype.
The SEC produced the past seven national champions entering the season – Florida State’s last-minute heroics against Auburn in Monday’s BCS championship game prevented an eighth straight win – but Stoops was vocal in contending the rest of major college football could compete.
He and OU proved as much with a 45-31 victory against two-time defending champion Alabama.
“Obviously, doing that on that stage and playing so well on that stage obviously helps everything,” Bedenbaugh said. “The excitement, the recruiting, the players here wanting to get back to work and do even better next year.”
It’s also a pretty good conversation-starter for the next time Bedenbaugh gets home or touches base with former coaches. The 1990 St. Charles High graduate played under Buck Drach. His offensive line coach was Mark Gould, who was the lone coach in St. Charles North program history before retiring at the end of the 2012-13 school year.
Bedenbaugh recalls returning home from college and aspiring to start coaching locally and see where it took him. The phone rang, and he was off to Goodwell, Okla. Seven schools later, he’s back in Oklahoma, presumably to stay.
It’s like he always tells players: It’s all about being in the right position.
“You don’t get these opportunities very often, you know,” Bedenbaugh said, “and I was very fortunate to have it, and very fortunate to be here.”
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.