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Replacing Sperbeck is not the Hornets’ answer

By From page B1 | December 01, 2013

I don’t know Sacramento State football coach Marshall Sperbeck.

I’ve met him in passing a couple of times and I interviewed him after several Causeway Classics.

He seems like a good representative of his school. Certainly, his 35-44 record in seven seasons with the Hornets doesn’t turn any heads, but Sperbeck’s presence has helped Sacramento State greatly improve its on-field fortunes.

Before Sperbeck arrived from Foothill College, the Hornets had gone 42-90-1 in the previous 12 years under John Volek and Steve Mooshagian.

When the Hornets were spanked 34-7 by UC Davis on Nov. 23, it marked Sperbeck’s fourth consecutive loss in the cross-river rivalry.

Since then, there have been rumblings about getting rid of Sperbeck.

Some websites have renewed a debate about the coach’s worth.

Then his hometown newspaper hinted early last week that it might be time for a change over on J Street.

Calm down, everybody.

Folks in the know at Sacramento State have high regard for the Valley High graduate.

Sperbeck has moved his athletes to the highest Academic Progress Rate in school history.

He has insisted on solid moral character and orchestrated a handful of programs that provide community givebacks among his players.

His Hornets have often been entertaining, if not accomplished, during the Sperbeck Era.

He knows better than anyone that a good defense would be a big help in putting his program quickly in the win column. But a close look at the Big Sky Conference tells even a casual observer that defense is a scarce commodity in arguably the nation’s most balanced Football Championship Subdivision loop.

Make no mistake, Sperbeck knows what he’s doing.

His 15 seasons at Foothill (Los Altos) saw his guys go 109-53 — including eight straight bowl victories.

He played quarterback at Oregon State and Nevada (1984 grad) before spending some time in two NFL training camps.

As evidenced by his team’s constantly improving school work, he knows why his players have come to his college. Most will have good educations for careers outside of football.

The academic excellence at arch-rival UCD hasn’t escaped Sperbeck — and someday he’d like to win in the classroom, too.

I asked around about what colleagues and Sac State acquaintances thought of Marshall Sperbeck.

To a person, the reviews were supportive.

“Sperbeck knows that winning is the first indicator of how a coach is doing,” said one Sacramento State administrator. “But it’s not the only read on what kind of job a coach is doing.”

However, fanatics in Green and Gold want those W’s. They want to beat the Aggies, at least occasionally (UCD owns that series, 43-18).

Understood.

But beyond Sperbeck, the future could be a roll of the dice. Among the nine Hornet coaches since football came to campus in 1954, only Bob Mattos (1978-1992) has a winning record, 84-73-2).

If history tells us anything, having Sperbeck in place — knowing his players are headed in the right direction, at least in life — is a good feeling for those who know the current coach.

Sperbeck still has time on his contract. It’s doubtful Sac State can afford to pay two head football coaches.

Sperbeck has a scary-good set of offensive players returning in 2014.

And from afar, it seems to me the fix that would take Sacramento State from 5-7 this year to battling for a place in the upper echelon of the Big Sky is a defense.

Starting over with a new head coach would be the Same Old, Same Old in Hornetville.

To jettison this coach — who does things right on behalf of his players — goes against everything that embodies the nurturing of a contributing, student-athlete.

Marshall, get that defense fixed and we’ll see you in a more competitive Causeway Classic next November — maybe a rivalry game that will have playoff significance.

— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer at The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.

Bruce Gallaudet

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