Four years ago the class of 2012, one of the most-heralded and highest paid groups of debuting football head coaches in Mountain West history, arrived to fanfare and high expectations.
These days the three remaining members, Hawaii’s Norm Chow, New Mexico’s Bob Davie and Fresno State’s Tim DeRuyter, are bound by their toil to stay afloat as victories prove elusive and patience fades.
Only one of them, Davie, who went 35-25 in five seasons at Notre Dame a decade earlier, had previously been a head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivison. The others — Chow (Utah), DeRuyter (Texas A&M) and Jim McElwain (Alabama) — arrived after being high- profile coordinators.
Saturday’s showdown in Albuquerque, N. M., where UH meets New Mexico, frames the struggles that have enveloped them four years on.
UH’s Chow and UNM’s Davie took over the two biggest rebuilding projects and, for the loser of Saturday’s game may forego the best shot of staying in the hunt for that ephemeral breakthrough first winning season.
The Rainbow Warriors are 2-4 (0-2 MWC) and need to win five of their seven remaining games while the Lobos (3-3, 1-1) await a formidable part of their schedule with four of the the five remaining opponents, including Boise State, having winning records.
Throw in the free fall of Fresno State (1-5, 0-3) and it is a far cry from what was expected from the members of the class of 2012.
McElwain, after a 4-8 opening season, quickly pointed talented but under-performing Colorado State in the right direction and parlayed the ascent into a six-year deal at Florida, which will pay him an average of $3.5 million a season.
Meanwhile back in the MWC, his classmates are hard-pressed to follow suit and, these days, are challenged to somehow manage a winning season.
DeRuyter inherited Pat Hill’s well-stocked cupboard at Fresno State with six eventual NFL Draft picks, including quarterback Derek Carr, and had 9-4 and 11-2 seasons to show for it. But when Hill’s recruits departed, so, too, did the fortunes of the Bulldogs who have lost 14 of their last 21 games and would be winless this season if not for a game against Abilene Christian.
DeRuyter, thanks to a contract extension and raise after 2013, is secure in a deal worth $1.45 million annually to take him through 2018.
Davie, who took over program that had been 3-33 in three seasons prior to his arrival, won applause — and a contract extension — with a 4-9 season and has a deal that has been extended through 2019.
But now fans are wondering when the payoff on that $772,690-a-year contract will come as the Lobos are 14-29 (5-21 in conference).
Chow, burdened with the most ambitious schedule in the penultimate year of his contract, is 9-33 overall (4-22 conference). Unlike his brethren, though, Chow lacks the luxury of much breathing room. His $550,000-a-year contract has but one season to run after 2015 and can be bought out for $200,000.
For the class of 2012, the season of 2015 hardly resembles the future that was forecast.
THE CLASS OF 2012
(Coaches who debuted in MWC in 2012)
Prior = School’s record for the 3 seasons prior to coaching change. * Hired at Florida for 2015 season.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 529-4820.