Mountain West Conference football teams did pretty well limiting turnovers on the field in 2014, but as a new season approaches, we are reminded that the coaching box remains another story.
The conference is rated one of the most transient in all of major college football.
(Avg. tenure of current head football coaches)
Note: Counting 2015
Among the 11 entities that make up the Football Bowl Subdivision — 10 conferences and the independents — the MWC is 10th in average tenure at 3.4 years per head coach, according to a study by CoachingSearch.com.
Let’s put it is this way: Hawaii’s Norm Chow begins his fourth season with the Rainbow Warriors in September and he is tied for third in seniority among current coaches in the 12-member MWC.
Only Air Force’s Troy Calhoun (nine seasons) and San Diego State’s Rocky Long (five seasons) have endured longer with the same MWC outposts.
Air Force is the bastion of stability in the otherwise evanescent MWC with just two head coaches — Calhoun, a former Falcon quarterback, and his mentor, Fisher DeBerry — in the MWC’s 16 year history and 31 years overall.
Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer, with 28 years in residence at Blacksburg, Va., is currently the longest serving in the same location nationally.
CoachingSearch.com says the national average is 4.8 years with the Big 12 (7.7 years), Southeastern (6.5), independents (6.3) and Atlantic Coast (6.2) leading the way. Only the Mid-American Conference, at 3.3 years, has seen more turnover than the MWC.
That history pretty much defines the MWC as a transfer point for coaches, though one that pays handsomely at a current average of about $800,000 annually. The ones who win consistently step up to the marquee conferences and even bigger paydays. The ones who don’t are invited to move on.
The MWC’s revolving door has gotten a pretty good workout in recent years. In Chow’s tenure seven coaches have departed the MWC — in one direction or the other. Three were fired or resigned. Four, including Jim McElwain, who, departed Colorado State for Florida in December, moved on to greener, much more lucrative pastures.
In that McElwain, formerly an assistant at Alabama and Fresno State, has been the star of the class of 2012, the four coaches who took over MWC teams that season.
Tim DeRuyter, a Texas A&M assistant who inherited a well-stocked cupboard at Fresno State from Pat Hill with NFL Draft picks Derek Carr, Davante Adams and Phillip Thomas, has gone 27-4. He has parlayed the success into a deal that takes him through the 2018 season while making him the league’s highest paid at $1.45 million.
But two other members who undertook remodeling tasks, Chow (8-29) and New Mexico’s Bob Davie (11-26), have struggled and are currently on a lot of the preseason coaches “hot seat” lists.
This year the MWC welcomes two new coaches, Mike Bobo at CSU and Tony Sanchez at Nevada-Las Vegas. Come the Mountain West Football Media Day in two weeks they might want to take a good look around at their peers because chances are the group picture will change considerably during their tenure.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 529-4820.