Ask Billy Cosh where he’s from, and he’ll start throwing out names and counting states. The Keydet offensive coordinator grew up on football fields around the country. His dad, Chris, coaches college football. The family moved all over the East Coast and Midwest while Cosh was growing up—and he loved every bit of it.
Wherever Chris went, his two shadows followed—Cosh and his brother, J.J. “I was just a sponge as a kid, going to practice,” Cosh remembered. “We tried to stay out [of] the way. But we would go to practice; we got to know all the players. I thought his job was awesome. It was a lot of work, which I’m starting to figure out now—but you get to impact people, which is the best part.”
Mary, Cosh’s mom, had “the hardest job … She had to sell the house, find the next place. She had a lot on her plate.” He, his brother, and his dad would “try to help her out as much as we could.”
Moving to a new place was always an adventure. He was always excited to see the next school—not just his own elementary, middle, or high school—but wherever Chris’ next coaching job would take them. “Every culture, every area is a little bit different—how they do things,” Cosh said. “I got to learn how to interact with different types of people.”
When Cosh’s turn came for his college career, of course, he wanted to play football. He ended up playing for four different schools, finishing at the University of Houston. The “best part,” he said, was meeting his wife, Kelsey, who played soccer for UH.
“As soon as I got done playing, I knew I wanted to coach,” he said, explaining, “the closest thing to playing is coaching.” Growing up as a coach’s kid meant he entered the career with his eyes wide open. His dad offers advice, tells Cosh some of the “ins and outs of how the profession works,” but “he’s not overbearing … he wants me to make my own decisions.”
Playing for different programs—UH, Kansas State, James Madison University, and Butler Community College—helped him as a coach. He learned what to do, what not to do, and what he liked and didn’t like.
“It really taught me patience,” he said. “If you just wait it out, things are going to be happening, and things are going to be good.”
Before coming to coach at VMI in 2018, Cosh had been driving past the Institute his whole life. His father played at Virginia Tech, and his grandmother lived in Virginia Beach, so passing through Lexington was something he always remembers doing. He knew Tom Clark, the Keydets defensive coordinator, through his dad. And Scott Wachenheim, the head coach?
“I wanted to work for him. I heard nothing but great things about him,” Cosh said. And now that he’s been under Wachenheim’s guidance for three-plus seasons? “He’s the best. I’m not trying to be corny. He is unbelievable for me as a young coach. He’s got [a] work ethic that is second to none. He’s the head coach, and he acts like a [graduate assistant]. He sets the standard as a coach.”
When Cosh came to VMI, he learned that VMI has a post, not a campus. His first season was a steeper learning curve. “My first year, we were 1-10,” Cosh said. “When you actually go 1-10, it’s difficult because our kids are giving everything they’ve got, and things just don’t go the way they’re supposed to go sometimes.”
He remembers thinking about the season. It was his first full-time coaching job, and he had hoped for a better season. He also remembers talking to his wife. “I told Kelsey, ‘We’re going to find a way; we’re going to get better.’”
Wachenheim, he said, “never lost the faith. He gave us confidence.” That was rewarded in the 2019 season, when the team went 5-7 overall and an even 4-4 in the Southern Conference. And finished fourth in the SoCon. And took the Silver Shako home.
Then came the spring 2021 season. The team lost one regular-season game and ended the best run since the 1970s in the FCS playoffs.
The Institute’s military structure adds to the team, Cosh said. Before coming to VMI, he “knew the kids [were] going to be awesome to coach. They’re so detailed. They love to come to practice. They love to learn and love to get better. They’re limited on excuses because they’re trained that way. It’s such an advantage … because you’ve got to be disciplined to play football.”
Cosh began as the wide receivers’ coach and was promoted to offensive coordinator after two seasons. He’s been through a few different kinds of seasons at VMI and knows the best way to continue moving forward is to keep trying and working hard. “You keep swinging,” he said, switching sports to baseball metaphors.
Through it all—from a 1-10 season to an FCS berth—VMI alumni are constant in their support of VMI. “You just feel the passion of the place and how much they love it,” Cosh said. “We love it as coaches. And as players, they see the support.”
His own coaching style, Cosh said, is to “coach ’em hard and hug ’em after.” He wants his players to be the best they can be—as a player and as a person. When they’re “on the white lines,” he’s the coach. “And as soon as it’s all done, I’m a hugger, and I’ll joke with you.”
“I saw my dad do it and the impact he had on players,” Cosh said. He’s seen his father’s former players call him up years later to say they appreciated how Chris coached them. “That’s really cool because that’s why we get into coaching—it’s to impact players.”
Cosh came to VMI from Indiana, where he was an offensive graduate assistant. He began his career at Concord University in 2015, where he was the offensive graduate assistant and quarterbacks coach. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology from UH in 2015.
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