Brad Laird, one of Northwestern State’s greatest football players and most successful defensive coordinators, is the Demons’ new head football coach, Athletics Director Greg Burke announced Nov. 20.
Laird, 44, will be officially introduced as head coach early next week on campus. The university is currently on Thanksgiving break. Laird’s promotion from associate head coach and defensive coordinator, a position he assumed this past January, is pending approval of the University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors, which oversees nine state institutions including NSU.
“While NSU has hired a great number of coaches and staff from around the country through the years who have had a high level of success, sometimes the best choice is right in your backyard. So with tremendous confidence, I’m announcing that Brad Laird will be the new football coach at Northwestern State University,” said Burke.
“Brad has a passion for NSU, as a former coach and administrator, and as one of the best players to ever wear a Demon uniform, that cannot be surpassed. He’s ready for this opportunity, he wants this opportunity, and he will make the best of this opportunity.”
He becomes the Demons’ 15th head football coach, succeeding Jay Thomas, whose contract was not renewed following five seasons in charge. The Demons finished 4-7 overall, 4-5 in Southland Conference play, this season, winning three of their last four games, capped by a 38-21 victory Saturday over Stephen F. Austin.
“To come back to your alma mater was an exciting opportunity a year ago for (wife) Renee and I, and although I didn’t envision this day, it’s even a greater thrill to have the trust of (NSU president Chris) Dr. Maggio, (vice president of external affairs Jerry) Mr. Pierce, and Mr. Burke,” said Laird.
“What a time to be here at Northwestern State University, with the momentum that has taken off first under (former president, now UL System president) Dr. (Jim) Henderson, and increased under Dr. Maggio, with record enrollment and so many great things happening here now and coming up in the near future.
“Our football team has momentum as well. We won three of our last four games, played our best football as the season went forward,” said Laird. “It’s an exciting time for everybody in the Northwestern family to come together to bring this program to the heights we want to make sure to reach, on a year-to-year basis competing for championships on and off the field, academically and athletically.”
Laird left coaching in 2012 and served as director of university advancement, overseeing the NSU Alumni Association and the NSU Foundation, into 2013 before his father retired as Ruston’s football coach and he was wooed to fill the post. His father remained as Ruston’s athletics director until his sudden passing in May 2015.
Laird returned to NSU 10 months ago from his high school alma mater, Ruston High School, where he averaged more than seven wins in four playoff seasons as head coach. He was also the Bearcats’ athletics director in 2015-16.
His 2016 Bearcats were ranked sixth in Louisiana’s largest prep classification, Class 5A, and became only the third RHS team since 1990 to win at least eight regular-season games.
Before this season, Laird had been the Demons’ DC twice before, for a total of seven years, under Scott Stoker (2003-05, 2008) and Bradley Dale Peveto (2009-11). The Demons’ all-time career passing leader (6,037 yards, 1991-95), he was a 2015 inductee in the N-Club Hall of Fame, the university’s highest athletic honor.
Laird was named to NSU’s Top 100 Demon Football Players roster during the centennial celebration for the program in 2007.
As a coach, Laird was running the Purple Swarm defense when NSU was second nationally in total defense (2004, 274.7 yards allowed pg) and ninth (2003, 287.3 ypg) and produced 75 turnovers from 2003-05. The Demons set three NCAA records and led the Southland Conference in total defense and rushing defense, also ranking highly in pass defense each season. The Demons won their most recent Southland championship and made their last FCS playoff appearance in 2004.
A wide-ranging list of attributes made Laird the clear choice to take over the program, said Burke.
His coaching acumen blends with his experience recruiting Louisiana and East Texas, and his knowledge of state high school football enhanced during his time as Ruston’s head coach, to further strengthen his portfolio.
Laird has coached at the high school level as an assistant at some of the region’s most powerful programs: West Monroe, Ouachita, Longview (Texas) and Nashville (Arkansas), in addition to his four seasons as head coach at Ruston. He spent one season, 2007, at SFA.