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Montana native Jason Petrino returning to Wyoming Cowboys as safeties coach

Jason Petrino
Posted at 2:59 PM, Jan 12, 2024

(Editor's note: Wyoming Athletics press release.)

LARAMIE, Wyo. — University of Wyoming head football coach Jay Sawvel has announced the hiring of Jason Petrino as the new safeties coach for the Cowboys.

Petrino most recently served as defensive coordinator and safeties coach at North Dakota State for the 2023 season. Earlier in his career, he served as a graduate assistant coach at Wyoming from 2003-04 and as Director of Football Operations for the Cowboys from 2008-09.

"Jason Petrino brings a wealth of experience as a coordinator, position coach and developer of safeties, Sawvel said. "He brings a great knowledge base of what we are trying to do. He is a great recruiter and person. I'm excited about him as an overall great addition to our defensive staff."

Petrino brings with him 24 years of coaching and administrative experience in college football, including three years as a college head coach at Rocky Mountain College from 2016-18 and 13 seasons as a defensive coordinator.

"I'm very excited to be back at the University of Wyoming," Petrino said. "My family and I have some great memories in Laramie and it is a full circle moment for us. We are fired up to be back as we love the State of Wyoming and this program. I'm excited to get to work with this staff and group of student-athletes."

During the 2023 season, he helped coach North Dakota State to the semifinals of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs before the Bison lost a two-point game, 29-31, at Montana. Petrino's 2023 defense at NDSU ranked No. 9 in the nation among FCS schools in total defense, allowing opponents only 302.6 yards of total offense per game.

The Bison defense also ranked: No. 18 in the FCS in scoring defense (19.9 points allowed per game), No. 24 in passing yards allowed (186.1 yards per game) and No. 22 in rushing defense (116.5 rushing yards per game). One of his defensive backs, Cole Wisniewski, earned First Team Associated Press All-America honors. He was also named as the top defensive back in FCS football in 2023 by the FCS Athletic Directors.

In his four seasons as defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Southern Illinois (2019-22), Petrino helped lead the Salukis to the quarterfinals of the 2020 FCS Playoffs and the second round of the 2021 FCS Playoffs. He helped transform SIU into one of the top performing defenses in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Petrino coached Saluki safety Jeremy Chinn, who was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.

Prior to SIU, Petrino spent three seasons (2016-18) as head coach of NAIA Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont., where he led the program to an outright conference championship and an NAIA playoff berth in 2018, with an 8-4 overall record and a 7-3 Frontier Conference mark.

While his coaching background had been focused on the defensive side of the ball, Petrino decided to serve as Rocky's offensive coordinator in 2018. His Rocky team advanced to the first round of the 2018 NAIA Playoffs where they lost to eventual National Champion Morningside (Iowa).

Petrino coached four seasons as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at South Dakota under former Wyoming and Montana head coach Joe Glenn from 2012 to 2015. In his final season at USD, the Coyotes had the fourth-ranked defense in the conference and beat the eventual National Champion North Dakota State Bison, 24-21, on the road in the regular season.

He spent one season each as the defensive backs coach at Omaha in 2011, preceded by serving as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Winona State in 2010.

Petrino spent two separate stints as part of the Wyoming Cowboy Football program. His first two years he served as a graduate assistant coach in 2003 and 2004 and then he returned for the 2008 and 2009 seasons, serving as Wyoming's Director of Football Operations. While at Wyoming, Petrino was part of two bowl appearances and two bowl championships — a 2004 Las Vegas Bowl victory over UCLA and a 2009 New Mexico Bowl win over Fresno State.

In between his two stays at Wyoming, he was the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., for three seasons from 2005 to 2007. He helped the Marauders transition from the NAIA to NCAA Division II level. Mary led the Northern Sun Conference in total defense, passing defense and red-zone defense in 2007 and tied for second place in its first year of conference play.

Petrino began his college coaching career at his alma mater, Carroll College, as defensive backs coach from 2000 to 2002 under head coach Mike Van Diest, a former Wyoming Cowboy player and assistant coach. Petrino was part of an NAIA National Championship team in 2002 at Carroll.

Petrino played his college football at Carroll College from 1995-99 under Van Diest. Petrino was a team captain and second-team All-Frontier Conference defensive back.

Petrino achieved his bachelor's degree in sociology from Carroll College and added a master's degree in business management from the University of Mary in 2009. He and his wife, Heather, are the parents of Jason, Mikaylah, and Patrick, and one niece, Danika.