CWU football coaching staff welcomes new faces and promotes an old one


Jacob Basham, Photo by Jacob Thompson

Isaac Hinson, Sports Editor

CWU Football Head Coach Chris Fisk has some new help in the coaching staff, as well as a returning face in a new position. 

James Basham and Ronnie Scott have taken over as Defensive Line Coach and Special Teams Coordinator/Safeties Coach respectively, while former graduate assistant and Defensive Line Coach Grant Torgerson has been promoted to Defensive Coordinator. 

Grant Torgerson

Torgerson has been a fundamental piece to the puzzle that is the Wildcats coaching staff for the past five years. Starting as a graduate assistant coach for the defensive line, Torgerson paved a path to becoming the defensive line coach and now the defensive coordinator. 

“I think anytime you get a promotion, you kind of go from a role where you’re just a part of the plan to going to make the plan,” Torgerson said. “Anytime you get to be a coordinator or get a chance to make a jump from a coordinator to a head coach, there’s a little bit more on your plate.”

After being a part of the coaching staff for half a decade, Torgerson says it feels rewarding to be given this position, and credits his relationship with Fisk which has been just as storied. Torgerson was a player at Southern Oregon University while Fisk was the offensive line coach. 

Torgerson said he has made a life in Ellensburg, and is happy to stick around. 

“To come here as a graduate assistant and work the whole way up is probably a little bit uncommon in our profession from the standpoint of just being at one place long enough for that to happen,” Torgerson said. “I love Ellensburg, this is where I met my fiance, we’re getting married this summer, I love this athletic department. Everything that Central Washington is doing, there’s a reason people want to be a part of it.”

Torgerson said he’s been adjusting to his new position smoothly. He’s excited for the larger responsibility that comes with being defensive coordinator. 

“I feel like I’ve been acclimating pretty well,” Torgerson said. “It’s exciting to step back and be a part of the bigger picture. You’re not just dealing with your position group. As a defensive line coach I was looking after 13 guys, and now we have 40-some-odd guys on our side of the ball … It’s been a fun challenge.”

With Torgerson receiving a promotion, that left an opening for newcomer Basham to step into as the new defensive line coordinator. Torgerson credits what Basham has done for the program already. 

“We’re 10 practices into this thing and he’s been doing a great job,” Torgerson said. “Coach Bash[am] has been a great addition to our program and has done an amazing job with those guys in terms of getting them to play hard … I’ve enjoyed getting to know all of the new coaches on our defensive staff and on our staff as a whole.”

James Basham

Basham took over defensive line duties from Torgerson. Basham said that he and Torgerson already have rapport and have been working together closely. 

“Very fortunate that Coach Torg[erson] is still on staff,” Basham said. “I look at that as a blessing for me. Being able to go to the guy who has had this group for the past couple of years, has been a great benefit to me. Because I can easily ask, ‘Hey, how did you coach this drill? How did you guys coach this?’ The minute I accepted the job he called me and told me congrats … He’s been a great friend and a great colleague.”

Basham joins CWU from Lone Star Conference rival Western New Mexico University (WNMU). The Mustangs saw a jump from 1-10 in 2021, their first season with Basham on the staff, to 6-5 in 2022. The 2022 season marked the Mustang’s first winning record in 30 years. 

“We needed to build a new culture [at WNMU] because the culture that was there just wasn’t it,” Basham said. “We dug deep into the transfer portal… That was really our big tool [recruiting], being at a school like Western New Mexico, there’s not really shiny toys to be able to sell as a recruiter so we really had to sell ourselves as coaches. I hope that me being able to recruit and build relationships, that’s something I want to bring over here too.”

Basham prides himself on his ability to make genuine connections with his players. He insists that building lasting relationships is the key to both on-field and off-field success. 

“I don’t like to bullshit them, I like to shoot it straight,” Basham said. “I think a lot of kids nowadays appreciate that more than you just jumping around the actual truth. All these kids go through their own ups and downs and different types of things that happen in their world, you need to be able to hear them and understand them. And once a kid knows he can trust you, they’ll run through a wall for you.”

Basham’s path to coaching was not traditional. He played his freshman year at Warren High School in Downey, California before quitting to focus on playing baseball. He says baseball was always his true sport. 

Basham returned to football his senior year as a promise to his late aunt. 

“I ended up going back to football my senior year for multiple reasons,” Basham said. “One of them was just wanting to get into better shape for baseball. The other one was a request from my aunt who had passed away from breast cancer. When she was going through her chemo battles she told me before she passed ‘James, I really wish that you would reconsider playing football.’”

Basham was hesitant at first, but ultimately returned as he thought about it further. Once he came back, he started honoring her on the field. 

“At the time I was like ‘That’s not really what I want to do Auntie, I’m a baseball guy’,” Basham said. “When she passed, I kind of reconsidered it. I went back for her and I wrote her name on my tape on my wrist and on my cleats before every game.”

When Basham began his return to football during spring training of his junior year, tragedy struck again as one of his former teammates became paralyzed in an accident. 

“He was actually my cousin’s boyfriend,” Basham said. “He was at the beach and he had an accident where he actually ended up becoming paralyzed. I remember going to visit him before practice one day in the hospital and he told me ‘Hey man, play hard for me because I can’t do it anymore.’ … There’s a lot of people that aren’t fortunate enough to be able to play, people have accidents all the time. They always ask us ‘What is your why?’ My why was for him and for my aunt as well.”

Basham went on to play defensive line for Warren High School and won Rookie of the Year, despite the team not recording a single win. 

During his time at WNMU, Basham coached against CWU twice. Both bouts resulted in wins for CWU, but WNMU’s defensive line shined in both contests, recording seven sacks across both games while CWU recorded none. 

From the other side of the field, Basham could tell that there was football culture at CWU, both from the players on the field and the fans in the stands. 

“I was able to come up here in September when we played in week two,” Basham said. “Seeing the fans, you could tell that there was a culture here and there was support as well … I always do my research and see the history, and see that they’ve [CWU] been successful for a number of years. It wasn’t just a fluke of them being successful one year, they’ve strung together consecutive years of being successful and that’s something I want to be a part of.”

Basham has already begun to acclimate himself inside the Wildcats locker room and likes what he’s seen from the team already. 

“From the first practice that I attended I could just tell that there was a culture that was built from day one,” Basham said. “The boys buy in. They do all the little corny chants that other programs kids might be like ‘I don’t want to do that clap or chant’ but here the boys buy into all that, which I love. I love the energy that they bring, I haven’t heard a single player complain about anything we’ve done in practice. That’s a refreshing feeling as a coach.”

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Ronnie Scott 

New Special Teams Coordinator/Safeties Coach Ronnie Scott joins CWU from Kansas where he spent the previous football season coaching the Highland Community College (HCC) Scotties. Under Scott, HCC led the National Junior College Athletic Association in pass break-ups. They also were second in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference in blocked punts, as well as first in starting drive distance. 

Before his time at HCC, Scott also coached at Division One program Alabama State University (ASU) as a Defensive Graduate Assistant Coach. Before finding his calling in coaching, Scott played at ASU for two years as a starter and captain in 2016 and 2017. He wound up being named Magic City Classic MVP as well as being awarded a spot on First Team All-SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) in 2017. 

Those accolades earned him a spot playing professionally in the Arena Football League for the Baltimore Brigade, and later the Tampa Bay Tornados of the American Arena League where he led the team in interceptions and led the defense in touchdowns. 

“When you play arena football, it’s not much like 11-on-11,” Scott said. “The field is smaller, there’s less players on it. The game seems to move a lot faster. But that taught me the idea of adaptation, how fast the adaptation has to happen. I’ve taken that into work as a coach. You get four years to get better as a player. So how fast can you get better? How fast can I figure out what it takes to teach these guys to get better from one day to the next.” 

Scott says building relationships with his players is his key to both him finding success as a coach, and the players themselves finding success. 

“X’s and O’s is pretty easy, the game is pretty easy for the players,” Scott said. “The hardest thing is getting them to play for you. Getting them to buy into the culture of not just the team, but each individual room and each individual coach that coaches those guys. I think the building of relationships, understanding how to do that and how important that is in the big scheme of things is something that’s really going to help me here.”

This is part of a mentality Scott preaches called “exponential growth” that he wants to see from his players. To achieve that, he says he puts in the extra work off the field and in the offseason. 

“Exponential growth is what I call it,” Scott said. “We have to be able to grow exponentially, not linearly. [To do that] you build the relationships, you spend the extra time not on the football field picking their brains, learning what they like and what their strengths and weaknesses are. And then from there as a coach, it’s my job to apply whatever information I’ve been given from those guys and put it into those couple hours we have everyday of practice.”

Scott joined the coaching staff on March 31, and in that short time he says he has already grown to love the team, attributing their attitude and their excitement to play. 

“I love it here so far,” Scott said. “The energy is great from the guys. That’s the hardest thing, you can’t fake energy … Really excited to be able to coach some of these guys. I can tell right away they’re willing to get better. I think once you have good energy and a willingness to want to learn, everything else will take care of itself. The sky’s the limit.”

While everything is running smoothly for Scott on the football side of things, there has been one fairly drastic change for him: Ellensburg weather. 

“It’s a long way from the south,” Scott said. “In Tampa right now it’s 95 degrees, high humidity, not much wind or cold weather. So I’m definitely figuring out how to layer up, what a base layer is. I’m learning, I’m not sure what you guys call it, I call it Dippin’ Dots when it’s falling from the sky and it’s not quite rain or snow and it melts in your mouth like Dippin’ Dots. Definitely not an easy adaptation for a kid from the south, but I love the new experience of it all.”

Ronnie Scott, Photo by Jacob Thompson