BOZEMAN, Mont. — Former Bozeman head coach Troy Purcell has been hired for the same position at Carroll College, the school announced Friday.

Purcell coached the Hawks from 2005-16 and spent the past three seasons as an assistant at the University of Idaho. He now returns to Helena, where he grew up, graduated from Helena Capital and played collegiately for Carroll. He replaces Mike Van Diest, who retired after 20 seasons coaching the Saints.

“There’s a great tradition at Carroll College academically and athletically,” Purcell said in a press release. “Being able to follow up behind two legendary coaches in Bob Petrino and Mike Van Diest is very exciting. I’m ready to continue that tradition of excellence at Carroll College.”

While Purcell played under Petrino from 1986-90, the Saints won four conference championships and reached the NAIA playoffs each season. As a senior, Purcell earned all-conference recognition.

Purcell credited Petrino for teaching him how to motivate players, which became a hallmark of his coaching style at Bozeman. He won three Class AA state titles with the Hawks in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Current Bozeman head coach Levi Wesche described him as the best football mentor he’s had.

“He was basically the kind of guy that it didn’t matter what they were running or even if they knew what we were running,” former Hawks linebacker Balue Chapman said. “He’s the kind of guy that said let’s line up and go play ball and we’re going to beat them. Just have a tough mentality and do whatever we can to win. I think that’s what made him a successful coach.”

In 2016, Purcell left Bozeman to reunite with Idaho head coach Paul Petrino, who he played with both in high school and college. In his first season with the Vandals, Purcell coached inside linebackers, moved to tight ends in 2017 and then added special teams coordinator to his responsibilities this season.

“We are very excited to welcome Troy back to Carroll College as our new football coach,” Saints athletic director Charlie Gross said in a press release. “His record of success throughout his entire career speaks volumes about his ability to teach the game of football. I am confident he will be an outstanding leader for our young men on and off the field.”

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

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