By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography) & John Nichols
When Bingham High football coach Dave Peck walked out of Rice-Eccles Stadium Nov. 21 after he led the Miners to their second straight state championship and their fifth overall, he knew it would be the last time. Or at least he thought it could be.
The organizers of the Burger King State Championship Bowl allowed the coach to extend his stay on the Bingham sidelines for one more game. He coached the Miners as they lost in overtime to the No. 3 ranked team in the nation, Booker T. Washington (Miami), in that Dec. 27 bowl game in Boca Raton, Florida.
Peck had decided before his team took the field this season that it would be his last year coaching at Bingham, but he waited until the team party after the championship campaign was finished to tell his players. In doing so, he shared with everyone in the room a piece of wisdom that explains that for him, this was more about teaching and touching lives than it was about winning football games, although he did both extremely well.
“Over the years I have had reporters or other people ask me what my favorite saying is, and I always reply that it is, ‘Help as many people get what they want out of life, and you will eventually get what you want out of life,'” Peck said. “I must have helped at least a few people over the years, because I could not be happier with where I am at in my life and in what my life in the future seems to be.”
Fifteen Great Years
The numbers speak for themselves. In his 15-year run with the Miners, Peck’s teams compiled an overall record of 154-38, with 10 region championships and those five state titles. He has been a high school football coach for 31 years and a head coach for 21 (including stints at Cyprus and North Sanpete), and his career coaching record is 181-71.
But those numbers only tell part of the story. Peck is always excited to talk about the kids who have played for him, regardless where they fell on the depth chart, and he feels that he treated them all the same because it was never about him.
“I don’t have a shrine in my basement. To me, it’s all about today and what’s going to happen tomorrow and be the best you can at that point,” Peck said. “I have no regrets. I gave my heart and soul to this program. I tried to do it right and run it with class, with high principles being the No. 1 objective. If I said it, I would back it up. It didn’t matter whether you were the all-stater on the team or a kid that didn’t play much, I treated them all the same.”
The decision to retire now was driven by the coach’s desire to explore new opportunities. He wasn’t looking for a time when his next team might be down a little to escape, but in fact, quite the opposite – Peck enjoys the fact that he is going out on top.
“It had nothing to do with wins and losses,” Peck said. “The program is in great shape. I’ve got seven returning guys back on that defense that are phenomenal. Who wants to go out when now people are questioning you as a coach, or you’re looking at it and going ‘they’re not going to be very good the next couple of years, it’s time to get out.’ I feel way better about the program we’ve built and then if we can win three or four more, talk about building a great foundation for a program. It’s exactly what Timpview’s done and Bingham’s going to do the same thing.”
He talks about the concurrent run Timpview has had compared to what he has built with the Miners, but when he looks back to his goals at the time he took the job, it was another program that he was looking to emulate. Few can argue with his results.
“If you look at articles from the first year I was hired here, I publicly said I wanted to build this program into ‘what Skyline is right now,’ Peck said. Skyline was the team, the program everybody looked at. Did I think that could happen? I did, I thought I was the right person, I thought there were the right resources to make that happen.”
That does not mean there haven’t been some successes that have come along unexpectedly. The game with which he closed out his Bingham career, a nationally-televised contest against a high-profile opponent from the football-crazy state of Florida, really put a cap on one of his most pleasant surprises – seeing his program and Utah high school football receiving nationwide accolades.
“The thing that surprised me the most was the national recognition that Bingham football gets,” Peck said. “You go and look at the national rankings. This is probably the fifth or sixth time we’ve been ranked in the Top 50. We’ve been in the Top 10 nationally at least two or three times. We’ve had a lot of national recognition. I would say Lone Peak basketball and Bingham football are the two that a lot of people, if they follow high school sports, they’ve heard of Bingham football and they’ve heard of Lone Peak basketball.”
The coach took full advantage of every opportunity to advance the cause of Utah high school football nationally and to put not just his Bingham players, but all of the state’s top athletes in the spotlight. He takes great pride in the successes of his annual trips to Las Vegas with a team of top players from schools all over the state to participate in a prestigious 7-on-7 tournament.
That team, which practices just a couple of times before the tournament and then plays against a collection of dozens of teams who play together regularly, is a regular participant in the event’s semifinals and finals.
It’s only fitting, then, that Peck’s final game on the sidelines at Bingham came in a high-profile national bowl game, and he relished that last chance on that grand stage.
“Any time we play an out-of-state team I think we’re carrying more than just the reputation of our program,” Peck said. “We’re carrying the reputation of our state because I think we’ve been right up there for a lot of years. We honor that and we cherish that opportunity to represent our state. Our state plays a great brand of football and some of the best coaches I’ve see out there are right here in Utah.”
Peck knows that he leaves the program in good hands, as offensive coordinator John Lambourne will slide over into the head coaching position. The two have coached together for 21 years and Peck strongly advocated for his assistant once he knew Lambourne wanted to take over the program. He feels really good about the state of things he is leaving to his friend.
“It was always the plan if he wanted it,” Peck said. “He wasn’t sure he wanted it. He was debating whether to go out with me. He’s got a couple more years and the program is in such good shape. Bingham’s going to be the favorite the next three or four years. Our sophomores and JV both went undefeated. Our seventh and eighth and ninth-graders all won the Ute Conference.”
While it’s Lambourne’s team to run with now, Peck does not expect that much will change around Bingham football after the transition.
“John’s keeping every single guy on our staff,” Peck said. “I don’t think any of them want to leave and we’ve got great kids in the program. There’s not a cloud hanging over the program of wondering who’s going to be the next coach. It was just a seamless transition to a guy…me and him have been together for 21 years and we’ve had a lot of success. I kind of think he’s going to keep our code of ethics and everything kind of like what we’ve been doing. One thing about Bingham, it’s never been about any one individual. It’s about being the best team in the state. ”
The 53-year-old Peck, who is married and has four grown children, is a native of Salt Lake. He played football at Cyprus High School and at Southern Utah University and was extremely successful as an athlete before he made the move to coaching. He was a first team all-state performer in both football and baseball for the Pirates in 1978 and 1979.
What’s Next For Coach Peck?
Whatever comes along in his life, for Peck it all comes back to home and family. He would love to coach at the next level, but for now, his plan is to take a sales position with sports equipment supplier Universal Athletics. He has a home and some land in Southern Utah, and he is looking forward to sharing that space with his parents, his kids and his grandkids.
It’s family and his roots that will guide any decisions about any future collegiate coaching opportunity that might come his way. When Weber State was looking for a new head coach following the 2011 season, Peck was under consideration for the position, which eventually went to John L. Smith, who left to coach Arkansas four months later without ever coaching a game with that team.
“It didn’t work out, but how can you blame them for going with John L. Smith, who had been Big 10 coach of the year, and was a Weber State graduate,” Peck said. “I’ve been close to leaving, but it hasn’t happened. To me, things work out like they’re supposed to. I’ve had two of the most amazing years of my career these last two years. I wouldn’t have had that if I’d left. If it’s meant to be, it will lead into something else.”
He is not sure the chance will ever come to work on a collegiate coaching staff, but Peck certainly leaves open the possibility, if the right opportunity comes along.
“Universal Athletics know that the only thing that would stop me from going to sell for them is a college position,” Peck said. “If the right college position came along, I would definitely consider it. I would love to get my foot in the door. I’ve been around a long time and I can watch a college game and break it down. I believe I can coach with those guys. It might be a pipe dream, but if I had that opportunity I’d love to get my foot in the door.”
Coach Peck says he might consider leaving the state for a short-term college position, but only as a pathway to something back here at home.
“I’m not going to go chase jobs,” Peck said. “If someone called me from out of state and said they wanted me to come coach with them, I’d consider going for a couple of years to get my foot in the door, but I want to end up in Utah. I would love to coach at one of the schools in Utah and end my career with something like that. I would go out of state for a couple of years, but knowing I want to be back where my grandkids and kids are. I wouldn’t want to turn it into a 20-year deal.”
Whether there is more coaching to come from Peck or not, the gifts he has given to the young people fortunate enough to have come into contact with him over the past 31 years are already immense. When he announced his retirement at that postseason banquet, he says a lot of kids shared their feelings, but there were a few tender moments with parents.
“I had more parents that have been with me and multiple kids come through, who were more teary-eyed than even some of the kids,” Peck said. “I’ve got a real good relationship with the kids. The seniors, I think, were grateful that we finished it together, and the younger kids may have been ‘I wish I could have had you my final years.’ It’s all good.”
Peck’s message to his team that he is happy with where he is and with where he is going comes from his belief that things happen for a reason, in sports and in life.
“Things will work out like they are supposed to,” Peck said.