The search for a new football coach at UC Davis has just started, but it’s obvious that first-year athletic director Kevin Blue had put a lot of thought into the type of coach he wants even before firing coach Ron Gould on Monday.
Blue posted a 2,200-word statement entitled “The Way Forward for UC Davis Football” the same day he announced Gould would not return for the fifth and final year of his contract.
Blue seeks a coach who can produce the same type of dominant program in the Football Championship Subdivision as the Aggies enjoyed for years at the Division II level without compromising academic success.
“We intend to perennially contend for Big Sky championships and earn berths in the FCS playoffs, with the ultimate goal of winning the FCS National Championship,” he wrote. “We will win with players and coaches who are smart, tough, and love the game of football, and we will demonstrate that an academically superb public university can field an elite football team at the DI FCS level.”
Although it will be a difficult task – the Aggies have had six consecutive losing seasons in D-I – Blue witnessed Stanford turn it’s once-struggling program into a Pacific-12 Conference force that has played in six consecutive bowl games before this season. Blue was a student, then later an assistant athletic director at Stanford.
At Davis, Blue has put together a 12-person advisory committee to help in what he describes as a nationwide search for a new coach. It includes former UCD coaches Bob Biggs and Bob Foster, and ex-players Ken O’Brien, J.T. O’Sullivan, Daniel Fells and Jason Hairston.
He has given no timeline when he expects to have a new hire in place, though he hopes it’s before the NCAA national letter of intent day in February.
In his program blueprint, Blue lists several qualities, skills and experience he seeks in the first major hire of his seven-month tenure. They include head coaching or “extensive” coordinator experience; expertise in building a program; the ability to recruit “highly accomplished student-athletes;” and someone who has a track record of building “winning habits.”
Blue hasn’t revealed any candidates he may have on his radar, but it has fans intrigued, excited and filled with questions.
Will ties with legendary coach Jim Sochor and UCD’s glory days hold sway? Will Big Sky Conference experience count for anything? Could Blue’s ties to Stanford and the Pac-12 produce the next Aggies’ coach?
No. 1 on many Aggie fans’ wish list is former Folsom High co-head coach and Cal assistant coach Troy Taylor, a 48-year-old quarterback guru in his first season as passing coordinator at Eastern Washington. But the spread-offense expert could be headed for bigger things after helping the Eagles finish the Big Sky Conference schedule undefeated while leading the FCS in passing offense.
Among those with UCD ties include Dan Hawkins, 56, a former UCD player and assistant who took Boise State to national prominence before struggling at Colorado. Hawkins agreed last week to become the offensive coordinator under new coach Butch Davis at Florida International, but reportedly still has designs on being a head coach.
Other former Aggie players, now coaches, include Tim Plough, 31, the offensive coordinator at Northern Arizona; Mike Moroski, 59, the third-year head coach at College of Idaho; and former UC Davis player Demario Warren.
Warren, 31, led Southern Utah to a 6-5record in his first season as head coach this season after helping the Thunderbirds win the Big Sky Conference title last season while a defensive coordinator. He is African American, one of college football’s youngest head coaches and one who is believed to be the lowest-paid coach in the conference.
Among those with current and former Big Sky ties include Rob Ash, 65, who won three Big Sky championships at Montana State before being let go after the 2015 season. He has 247 college coaching wins, played at Cornell and is the offensive analyst at Arkansas.
Sac State offensive-run coordinator/offensive-line coach Paul Wulff, 49, played at Davis High School and led Eastern Washington to back-to-back Big Sky championships in 2004 and 2005 before having an unsuccessful run at Washington State. San Diego State associate head coach Bobby Hauck, 52, won or shared seven consecutive Big Sky titles from 2003 to 2009 as Montana’s head coach.
While it’s doubtful that a Pac-12 coordinator would be interested in stepping down in prestige and salary to coach at UCD, Stanford has a handful of up-and-coming young and ambitious assistant coaches. They include running backs coach Lance Taylor, 35, and quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard, 29.
College assistants with area roots include former Sac State player and assistant coach Angus McClure, the recruiting coordinator at UCLA; ex-Wake Forest offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke, a former Oakmont High standout now coaching tight ends at Air Force; and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks coach and current Oklahoma State running backs coach Marcus Arroyo from Colfax.