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Cal Coaching Candidates: The Search Begins

We spent the long weekend being thankful for everything Tedford did for Cal. Now we look ahead at the top candidates to replace him.

Who will inherit the House the Tedford Built?
Who will inherit the House the Tedford Built?
Ezra Shaw

Last week we saw the end of the Jeff Tedford era at Cal. Citing declining performances on the field and in the classroom, Sandy Barbour relieved Tedford of his duties and vowed to build on the foundation Tedford built.

Sandy Barbour has enlisted the help of DHR International to find the next coach for Cal. They have helped some programs make great hires over the years: Jim Harbaugh, Stanford; Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State. They have also helped programs make lousy hires: Charlie Weis, Kansas; Randy Edsall, Maryland. Of course, the final decision will come down to Sandy Barbour, Chancellor Birgeneau, and others.

We at CGB do not have twenty years of executive searching experience, but we do know a little bit about football. So we're conducting our own search! Over the next two weeks we will take a closer look at several of the top candidates. We will be putting together in-depth profiles and interviewing those who cover these teams to get another perspective on these prospective coaches. For each of the following candidates we will have a profile and/or Q & A. Here's a very brief introduction to each candidate.

Gary Andersen, head coach, Utah State

Gary Andersen is head coach of the resurgent Utah State Aggies. Once one of the worst teams in FBS, Utah State has won its first conference championship since 1936 and won 10 games for the first time in school history. This is a team that won 6 games total in the three years prior to Andersen's arrival. Andersen has begun to do to Utah State what Jeff Tedford did at Cal. Once known for developing solid defenses, Andersen has also developed a dynamic running game and, more recently, an efficient vertical passing game.

Bob Diaco, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame

    Since joining Brian Kelly and Notre Dame, Bob Diaco turned a thoroughly mediocre team into one of the best defenses in the nation. Now headed to the national championship game, Notre Dame has risen from mediocrity mostly based on defensive improvement. Diaco was recently promoted to assistant head coach and is taking a bigger role in managing the team. He demands excellence and full commitment from his players on and off the field. He also happens to be an excellent recruiter. With ND going to the BCS title game, he will be one of the hottest coaching prospects this year.

    Dave Doeren, head coach, Northern Illinois

      Since being promoted from Wisconsin's defensive coordinator to head coach at NIU, Doeren has continued the recent NIU tradition of running one of the most efficient offenses in the nation. Under Doeren NIU continues to run a vertical spread offense where the QB racks up 3000+ passing yards and 1000+ rushing yards per season. While he inherited a good offense, he has developed a top-25 defense at NIU. This is very impressive since the MAC has some of the best offenses outside BCS leagues: Toledo, Kent State, Ohio, etc. He's a great recruiter and was Kansas' recruiting coordinator for several successful years. He also runs a program with a top-5 APR and Doeren was an academic All-American when he played football. He is an underrated coach and could be a steal for whichever program hires him. He has a 22-4 record at NIU (21-1 in his last 22 games) and brought the Huskies their first MAC Championship since 1983. With his strong midwest roots, he may seriously consider head coaching position at Purdue.

      Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech

        While Louisiana Tech was undefeated, Dykes was one of the hottest names for the upcoming offseason. The hype has cooled slightly, but he is still a strong candidate for many open positions. He worked under Mike Leach for several years and was Arizona's offensive coordinator during those couple years when they were relevant in the late '00s. He obviously knows offense and his offense has brought Louisiana Tech to national prominence this season. He consistently gets solid QB play in his offense, whether at Texas Tech, Arizona, or Louisiana Tech. His defense at Louisiana Tech has been a glaring weakness. Throughout his career he has been praised as a good recruiter. He reportedly wants his next position to be at a place where he can win, instead of the school that gives him the highest salary.

        Mark Helfrich, offensive coordinator, Oregon

          Mark Helfrich has a long track record of developing quarterbacks at Boise State, Arizona State, and Oregon. He's now the offensive coordinator for the best offense in college football. What "offensive coordinator" means is a little unclear, as the offense is still Chip Kelly's baby. Helfrich does not even call plays at Oregon. He does develop QBs, however. Helfrich is the mystery man in this year's coaching carousel. The Ducks seem interested in retaining him, though, as he was nearly named head coach when Kelly was on his way out the door to Tampa Bay.

          Hue Jackson, former head coach, Oakland Raiders

            Hue Jackson has 25 years of coaching experience, including a one-year stint as Steve Mariucci's offensive coordinator at Cal. Jackson has held position coaching positions at RB, WRs, and QBs, as well as special teams and, oddly enough, defensive backs for the Bengals this season. His star pupils include RB Stephen Davis, WR Chad Ochocinco, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and QB Joe Flacco. He was a head coach at Oakland last year and helped them to an 8-8 season. They started 7-4 but closed out the season with a disappointing 1-4 stretch. The Raiduhs have regressed significantly since Jackson's departure. His players praised his attention to detail and his ability to keep opposing defenses on their heels. Many of his players speak fondly of him, but one of the most memorable moments of his stint at the Raiders was when he publicly called out his team following the season-ending loss to San Diego last year. He's arguably our top candidate from the NFL ranks.

            Mike MacIntyre, head coach, San Jose State

              Unless San Jose State starts paying MacIntyre more than $450k per year, the Spartans will have a hard time holding onto the coach after he led the Spartans to 10 regular-season wins this year. The team only had three winning records in the past 20 years. The program was a mess when he took over. They suffered scholarship reductions due to a low APR. He won 1 game his first year, 5 his second year, and 10 (with a chance for 11) this year. That is a remarkable turnaround, made all the more remarkable by the school's scholarship reductions. Most of his coaching career has been spent on the defensive side (including a couple stints as a DBs coach in the NFL), but both the San Jose State offense and defense have improved tremendously under MacIntyre. With academics cited as a reason for firing Tedford, Cal could take a look at MacIntyre.

              Chris Petersen, head coach, Boise State

                The white whale. Petersen is that coach that everyone thinks they'll hire each offseason, yet he remains firmly entrenched in Idaho. Rumor has it he's interested in leaving Boise State only to coach at Cal or Oregon. Of course, that's what all fanbases tell themselves when they're looking to hire him. Last week Arkansas fans were convinced Petersen was on his way to Fayetteville. As part of Petersen's contract, he must provide written notification 24 hours before he interviews with a school. This means there will be a paper trail when he is considering a school (whether that paper trail is made public remains to be seen). He turned down a UCLA contract worth $4m in salary plus $3m for assistants, so he's obviously not interested in whichever schools gives him the most money. Of course, we all know what he has done at Boise State. His 82-8 record speaks for itself. Can Sandy Barbour lure the ultimate coaching candidate? Don't bet on it, but don't count him out among the candidates.

                Ron Rivera, head coach, Carolina Panthers

                  Cal alum Ron Rivera will not likely return as Carolina's head coach. He has spent most of the past 15 years coaching on the defensive side of the ball in the NFL. His success as defensive coordinator with several teams gave him the opportunity to become the head coach at Carolina. With a dynamic Cam Newton at QB, the Panthers seemed poised for success this season. Unfortunately, the team has disappointed and Rivera is uncertain about his future. With a new GM joining the team in the near future, Rivera is unlikely to stay, particularly in light of this season's results. He does not have collegiate coaching experience, but his ties to Cal and extensive NFL experience make him a candidate worth considering.

                  Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers

                    Roman is a familiar face around these parts. He led the Stanford offense in 2009 and 2010 under Jim Harbaugh and followed Harbaugh to the 49ers where he continues to coordinate the offense. Prior to joining Harbaugh, Roman spent a decade in the NFL coaching offensive lines, tight ends, and quarterbacks. He also coached tight ends and offensive tackles for the Cardinal. He was a great recruiter at Stanford and emphasized academics (lol) in addition to football. With his emphasis on offensive lines, tight ends, and a traditional, downhill running game, he could provide the offense many Cal fans have been dying to see since 2006.

                    Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator, Washington

                    Former Cal linebackers coach and Washington defensive coordinator may be worth a look. He made big improvements to last year's awful UW defense. It hasn't been easy, though. The defense's highlights have been holding top-ten teams Oregon State and Stanford under 20 points, while giving up 52 to Arizona and 31 to Wazzu have been low points. Much of UW's struggles have been on the offensive side of the ball. Despite the same 7-5 record, Wilcox has made improvements. He's a good recruiter and an upwardly mobile coaching prospect, but he may not yet be ready for a head coaching position. He's worth a look, but with the number of other candidates available, he may not be a great choice this year.

                    Check back as we provide a closer look at each of these candidates, whether through an in-depth profile and/or a Q & A with those who know him best. It's going to be a fun couple weeks.

                    At this point, the possibilities are endless. Any of the candidates mentioned here or elsewhere could be the next coach. A wise man once said "Better than a deed, better than a memory--the moment of anticipation!" This is a fun time of year, Cal fans. Enjoy the mystery while it lasts.