Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

From Left: Lane Kiffin (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS), Doug Nussmeier (Julian H. Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press/TNS), Pat Hill (Dalton Runberg/The Collegian), Jeff Tedford (BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons).

Search for DeRuyter’s successor begins

Tim DeRuyter’s release as head football coach leaves Athletic Director Jim Bartko with an opportunity to shape the football program how he wants to — it lets him bring in his own guy. The national search for the next head coach officially started Monday.

Bartko said he will not talk about the search process or any potential candidates until he announces who the next head coach will be. The position has to be posted for 14 days before someone can be officially hired. So, in theory, Bartko may be holding a press conference in two weeks with his new head coach.

There are many names being discussed for the position, many of the possible candidates have ties to the school. Bartko said the new coach does not have to have any history with Fresno State, but he did say the new coach has to be “someone that has an idea of how special this Valley is.”

It makes sense to hire someone with connections to Fresno State — someone who knows what makes the school special and someone who understands the community. This is vital for the next coach.

Before we go any further, we must remember how previous coaching hires went. Coach Jim Sweeney was not the so-called favorite to land the job. Neither was Pat Hill nor DeRuyter. None of them were the frontrunner. The current frontrunner may not get the job, and whoever does eventually get it may be completely unexpected. Here is a list of some candidates who may become the next head coach:

Jeff Tedford

Tedford is the proclaimed frontrunner right now by many members of the media, and many fans have called for Tedford to be hired. He played quarterback for Fresno State and later coached under Sweeney as quarterback coach and offensive coordinator.

He is most famous though for his time as head coach of the University of California, Berkeley, ­from 2002-2012; his record of 82-57 lands him as the winningest coach in Cal’s history. He has a history with successful quarterbacks, from his time as a Bulldog with Trent Dilfer to his time at Cal with Aaron Rodgers.

The problem is once Rodgers went to the NFL, Tedford was unable to develop another quarterback from 2005 to when he was fired after the 2012 season. Another issue is that he only won one Pac-10/12 title, shared with USC, and only came in second once.

The last six years of his tenure were largely mediocre, and his last season ended with a 3-9 record. Currently, he is an offensive consultant for Washington and an NFL analyst for ESPN. The fact is he is not a coach on the rise, and there are plenty of other options out there. Everyone clamoring for Tedford needs to slow down and think.

Lane Kiffin

As the current Alabama offensive coordinator, former Bulldog quarterback Kiffin will be in high demand. Alabama is the No. 1 team in the country in part because of the offense he runs. He had major issues with his previous head coaching jobs, but he has learned under Nick Saban the last few years, and it is expected he will now run his next program better than he ever has.

He has an impressive resume: head coach of the Oakland Raiders, University of Tennessee and USC, but he was fired from Oakland and USC, and he bolted from Tennessee after just one season. He is young at 41 and is definitely on the rise. However, there are issues.

I cannot imagine him staying in Fresno for very long given his history of moving around. Also, he currently makes $1.4 million — that is just under DeRuyter’s $1.5 million salary. Fresno State cannot afford to pay much more than DeRuyter was making, and maybe cannot even afford to pay its next coach the same salary as DeRuyter. Therefore, Kiffin would have to be willing to make no more money than he already is or take a pay cut.

Lastly, any major job opening will have his name attached to it, as already seen with LSU (Louisiana State University). It would be a major surprise if Fresno State lands Kiffin.

Doug Nussmeier

Nussmeier is the current offensive coordinator at Florida and served in the same position at Fresno State for the 2008 season. Under his coaching, quarterback Tom Brandstater and running back Ryan Mathews led one of the best offenses in the nation.

Nussmeier’s career has been trending upward. After Fresno State, he coached as offensive coordinator at Washington, Alabama, Michigan and Florida. At Florida, he coaches under Jim McElwain, another former Bulldogs offensive coordinator. Nussmeier was offered the head coach position at Southern Mississippi after last season but turned it down.

His current salary is $515,000, so Bartko should be able to give him a competitive offer. Nussmeier will be a candidate for other openings at the end of the season, so Fresno State would need to try and lock him up early.

John Baxter

Baxter is the current special teams coordinator at USC, and he served in the same capacity at Fresno State under Hill for 13 years. During his time in Fresno, the Bulldogs’ special teams often ranked top in the country in various categories, such as kicks and punts blocked, fewest punt-return yards allowed and most kick-return yards.

Baxter has had similar results in his stops at USC and Michigan. He is not a hot coach on the rise like Kiffin and Nussmeier are, but he knows the Valley and was here with Hill’s greatest teams.

He could be a candidate for the long run, like Hill and Sweeney were. He may not look to jump ship.

Another plus is Academic Gameplan: a study skills program he founded which is a major reason the Fresno State football team enjoyed higher graduation rates than much of the country. Academic Gameplan is now used throughout the nation. Baxter has never been a head coach, but he has been an assistant head coach for much of his career.

Tim McDonald

McDonald is the current defensive backs coach for the Buffalo Bills and served in the same position at Fresno State in 2012 under DeRuyter before moving on to the New York Jets. His only head coaching experience is at Edison High, but he could be a wild-card candidate to get the job.

The defense in 2012 enjoyed its best season under DeRuyter and that may have been due to McDonald. The chances of him making the jump from defensive backs coach to head coach are slim, but his name is well-known throughout the Valley, and that might be what Bartko is looking for. It would definitely be a “name” hire.

Various assistant coaches

There is a large number of coaches who deserve looks, and many of these may fill vacant head coaching positions around the country at season’s end. They are the top assistants in the nation. These coaches do not have Fresno State ties, but that should not deter Bartko from considering them.

Some coaches who deserve looks are: Danny Langsdorf, offensive coordinator (OC) at Nebraska; Brent Venables, defensive coordinator (DC) at Clemson; Lincoln Riley, OC, Oklahoma; Major Applewhite, OC, Houston; Pete Kwiatkowski, DC, Washington; Justin Wilcox, DC, Wisconsin; and Tim Drevno, OC, Michigan.

Steve Sarkisian has also been mentioned as a possible candidate, but his recent history at USC involving alcohol may be a deterrent.

And finally, Pat Hill

I highly doubt he will leave his job as color commentator for 940 ESPN Radio to return to his former position, and I also highly doubt that Bartko has Hill on the top of his list. But stranger things have happened.

Successful coaches have had multiple stints at a single school: Chris Ault at Nevada, Bobby Petrino at Louisville, Mike Riley at Oregon State, Bill Snyder at Kansas State, Bill Walsh at Stanford and John Robinson at USC — the list goes on and on.

Rehiring Hill is not a bad idea and is not that far-fetched. He would re-energize the fan base like none other, possibly being the perfect coach to go hand-in-hand with Bartko’s stadium renovation project.

Hill made Fresno his home, and the Bulldogs achieved greatness under him as he turned looked-over Valley kids into NFL talent. One could argue that no one has more passion for the team than Hill. For proof of that, then simply turn on the radio during the game. You can hear it in his voice.

But he was let go for a reason. If he is chosen, it sure would be fun. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to see that Fu Manchu again?

All things considered, Nussmeier or Baxter sound like the most viable options to get the job. They both coached here before and know the culture of the Valley. Also, they both have found success elsewhere and have had the opportunity to coach under great coaches like Jim Harbaugh and Saban.

Nussmeier is on the rise and may use this job as a stepping stone. But before he could leap to a Power 5 school, he would have to return Fresno State to greatness.

Given Baxter’s history, he may be more likely to stay in Fresno for the long run.

The football program is in serious trouble, and Bartko cannot make a mistake with the next head coach.

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    Dan WaterhouseOct 26, 2016 at 8:13 am

    Certain boosters claim the Tedford hiring is a done deal. They say hiring him was a condition of their providing the cash to pay off DeRuyter’s remaining contract. Talk is that while Bartko hasn’t chatted with him, there’s been third-party contact via a booster or boosters.