Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bob Dunning: Search for next coach will go beyond city limits


From page A2 | November 23, 2012 | Leave Comment

FOOTBALL FUTURE … now that the Aggies have completed yet another successful football season by winning the only game on the schedule that truly matters, it won’t be long before UC Davis names a new head coach to guide the program into the great gridiron battlefield known as the Big Sky Conference …

In their first year in the Big Sky and their last under longtime head coach Bob Biggs, the Aggies learned a couple of valuable lessons … first, there are no patsies in the Big Sky Conference … even lowly Idaho State — known as “Pokey” around the league because of its Pocatello residence — gave the Aggies all they could handle … the second thing the Aggies learned is that they can compete with anybody, as near-misses against national powers Eastern Washington and Montana State attest …

While UC Davis has always looked inside the program when it was time to hire a new head football coach, that’s not going to happen this time with both a new chancellor and a new athletic director running the show, neither of whom, by the way, had any Aggies ties before coming to UC Davis …

While many Davisites think the world starts and ends at the Davis city limits and the top talent in any field resides therein, newcomers like Linda Katehi and Terry Tumey don’t see the world that way … the new coach may well be a familiar name and he — trust me, it will be a he — may even have played football here, but it will be someone who built his coaching résumé elsewhere … it’s an important hire because, like it or not, football is the engine that drives virtually every Division I athletic program in the country … and the schedule for the foreseeable future remains difficult at best …

RUSH TO JUDGMENT … the reason UCD must hire its new football coach soon — like yesterday — is that recruiting is the name of the game in college football … the greatest coach in the world can’t win without great players … and given that virtually all high school football teams have either completed their seasons or are deep into the playoffs, recruiting season is in full swing …

UCD can’t wait until February or March to hire a new coach and pick only leftovers for the freshman class that will arrive on campus for preseason camp next August … there may be a few bumps in the hiring process — the chosen candidate ultimately may decline the job — but I’ll still be stunned if a new coach isn’t in place by mid-December, if not sooner …

CANDIDATE CAROUSEL … in addition to becoming known as Quarterback U. over the years, UCD has also developed a reputation as a cradle of coaches … Chris Petersen enjoys legendary status at Boise State and is always the first name mentioned when a major college coaching job comes vacant … Mike Bellotti had great success at Oregon, where another Aggie, Nick Aliotti, is the longtime defensive coordinator … Dan Hawkins built Boise State into a national power, going 53-11 in five years, before running into disaster after taking the head coaching job at Colorado … Paul Hackett was the head coach at both USC and Pittsburgh …

The common thread between Petersen, Bellotti, Aliotti, Hawkins and Hackett? … all played or coached at UCD under College Football Hall of Famer Jim Sochor … Hawkins, trying to resurrect his career after falling off the cliff at Colorado, may well be a strong candidate for the Aggie job … the other four are clearly far beyond UCD’s limited reach …

SPEAKING OF FOOTBALL COACHES … although he’s not a candidate for the Aggie job, if Steve Smyte has a couple more years like the one he just had at Davis High School, he’ll land a college head coaching job somewhere … in a short time, Smyte has taken a downtrodden program and brought it within an inch of earning a playoff bid, all while turning out solid citizens who are giving back to the community that supports them … it’s a remarkable story of success …

— Reach Bob Dunning at


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