Fresno State fired football coach Tim DeRuyter on Sunday with the Bulldogs in a two-year tailspin, 1-7 this season and 4-16 since playing in the Mountain West Conference championship game in 2014.
Just two of those four wins have come against FBS opponents and in conference play, the program slipping as a number of recruiting classes were decimated by early departures and poor evaluations.
“Not an easy day,” athletic director Jim Bartko said. “Football fever runs deep in the Valley. David Carr, Derek Carr, Trent Dilfer, many others. Jim Sweeney. Pat Hill. We expect great things out of it.
Over the time I’ve been here, the football program has shown it has the ability to be a product the Red Wave can be excited about, but the results have not been to the standard we anticipated and expect.
Fresno State AD Jim Bartko
“We have informed Coach DeRuyter that he no longer will be our head football coach. Tim and his family have been great ambassadors for this university and our football program. Coach DeRuyter is a true man of character and a leader of great student-athletes and he was great (Sunday).
“Over my tenure, (University President Dr. Joseph Castro) and I both felt that on the field that it is not up to the standard that the Valley needs. We haven’t had the success as expected, anticipated by many including myself and the president and many in this room and watching on TV.”
Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau will serve as interim coach – Fresno State has four games remaining, three at home starting Friday with a game against Air Force.
“This football season is not over,” Bartko said. “I met with the team (Sunday). They were in good spirits. They’re great students. They care about the Fresno State on their jersey. Our goal is to win the next four games. We’ll get the fever pitch back to Fresno and the Valley on the football field.”
DeRuyter still is owed $3.1 million under a five-year contract signed after the 2013 season with two conference championships in two seasons on the resume.
It is not immediately known if that money has been raised through private donations, will be covered by the university or a combination of the two.
“We’ll be able to share more in the coming days as we have those discussions with Coach DeRuyter, but we will honor the terms of that agreement,” said Castro, who brokered that deal, which included base salaries of $1.4 million in 2014, $1.45 million in ’15, $1.5 million in ’16, $1.55 million in ’17 and $1.6 million in ’16 and is fully guaranteed. “We’ll be meeting with his representative in the coming days to figure out how exactly those things will unfold.”
The contract also included annual academic performance bonuses that could total $750,000.
Fresno State will conduct a national search for a football coach – it must first post the position for 14 days. But the Bulldogs’ athletic director has ties to former Cal Coach Jeff Tedford, who played quarterback at Fresno State in 1981 and ’82 and set records for career passing yards and passing touchdowns that have long since been passed, and he is considered a leading candidate for the job.
Bartko said there had been no discussions with Tedford, who this season is an offensive analyst at Washington, which is 7-0, No. 4 in The Associated Press Top 25 and ranked fourth in the nation in scoring offense at 48.3 points per game and 24th in total offense at 486.6 yards per game.
“We’ll have a search process,” Bartko said. “Once that is done, we’ll find the best candidate for the job. But there have been no discussions.”
But the Bulldogs have an offensive staff filled with coaches with Tedford ties starting with Kiesau, who was the Golden Bears’ receivers coach from 2002 to ’05 and receivers coach and passing game coordinator in 2011. Fresno State receivers coach Burl Toler III played for Cal under Tedford, and running backs coach and special teams coordinator Dave Ungerer spent one year at Cal.
Fresno State also is not hiring a search firm to aid it in the process.
The Bulldogs’ next coach will inherit a program that has struggled the past two seasons.
With top-level talent in the program in Derek Carr, Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse, Phillip Thomas, Derron Smith and Tyeler Davison, DeRuyter when hired to replace Pat Hill in 2011 delayed development and recruited to fill dire holes in the Bulldogs’ depth his first two seasons.
That strategy paid off, with the Bulldogs winning their first conference titles since 1999. But after switching gears, they struggled to hold together recruiting classes, particularly a 2014 class that through attrition lost 12 of the 22 players added on national letter of intent signing day.
In its first four recruiting classes, of the 75 players to sign national letters of intent on the first Wednesday in February, 33 either didn’t make it into the program or left the program.
Included were four of five offensive linemen signed in that 2014 class. The Bulldogs also lost all four defensive backs signed in 2013 and every quarterback signed from 2012 to ’14.
Fresno State as a result has fielded young and inexperienced teams the past two seasons – 29 players this season have played for the Bulldogs for the first time, 30 last season.
The Bulldogs, following a 38-20 loss on Saturday at Utah State, are ranked last of 12 in the conference in scoring offense (20.5 ppg) and total offense (350.4) and 10th in scoring defense (34.1 ppg) and eighth in total defense (433.1 ypg).
Valley ties will play a role in finding a coach to try to right the program, and Bartko said he would be remiss if he did not speak with former players to get input.
“The Valley has always been special,” he said. “We had a lot of great winners here, and when I say Valley it’s not just Fresno, it’s down to Bakersfield, we’ve had some pretty good quarterbacks come out of that area, and we’ve had some pretty good players out of the smallest towns, so that has to be a focus.
“To see what we did the last couple of years, coach did a good job evaluating and some of those kids might not have wanted to come to Fresno, but it will be a focus on what we do.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Tim DeRuyter at Fresno State
- 2012: 9-4 overall, 7-1 Mountain West
- 2013: 11-2 overall, 7-1 Mountain West
- 2014: 6-8 overall, 5-3 Mountain West
- 2015: 3-9 overall, 2-6 Mountain West
- 2016: 1-7 overall, 0-4 Mountain West
- Totals: 30-30 overall, 21-15 Mountain West