You have questions, and I’m supposed to provide answers. That’s my job, right?
Everywhere I venture these days – a friend’s barbecue, NFL press boxes, the chips and popcorn aisle at Trader Joe’s – people approach with the same questions regarding the decline of Fresno State football and what will come next. To say nothing of the emails, Twitter replies and phone messages.
So rather than keep answering individually, let’s round them up into one handy spot so anyone can listen in.
How much longer will Tim DeRuyter be the head coach at Fresno State?
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Unless things take a sudden turn for the better, beginning Saturday in Reno, 52 more days. That’s the number from Friday through Nov. 27, one day after the season finale against San Jose State. That’s typically how these things go.
I’ve read DeRuyter has a contract through 2018. Can’t they just buy him out?
Because DeRuyter’s base salaries through 2018 are fully guaranteed per terms of a five-year agreement agreed to in January 2014 and finalized that April. After this season, he will still be owed $3.1 million.
$3.1M amount Fresno State still owes Tim DeRuyter following this season, per terms of his guaranteed contract
Is it common for a university to give its football coach such a contract?
No. In the words of a sports agent with decades in the business, it’s “extremely rare.”
Who at Fresno State oversaw those negotiations, and why would they do that?
That would be President Joseph Castro, whose trademark slogan – “be bold” – backfired here. To be fair, the Bulldogs at the time were 20-6 under their second-year coach and other schools were sniffing around. At the time, Castro did what he felt necessary to lock him up.
Why doesn’t Fresno State make a move now?
Several reasons: 1) Athletic director Jim Bartko still supports DeRuyter, at least publicly, and is hoping for a turnaround. 2) There’s not any benefit; it’s not as if any outside coach is going to take the reins midseason. 3) I don’t believe Fresno State has the $3.1 million in hand, ready to hand over. 4) If they jettison DeRuyter now, they’ll surely have to pay every last dime. If they wait, perhaps a mutual agreement can be worked out that benefits both parties.
Assuming there’s a new head coach next season, what’ll happen to the coordinators?
Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau and defensive coodinator Lorenzo Ward both have two-year contracts, with buyouts, through next season. Whether they’re retained would be up to the next guy in charge. If not, and if neither lands another job, Fresno State would be on the hook for those salaries as well.
Who are the leading candidates to replace DeRuyter?
That’s a subject I’ll delve into more in the coming weeks, but one obvious name would be Jeff Tedford, the former Bulldogs quarterback and offensive coordinator who went 82-57 in 11 seasons as the head coach at Cal. Tedford is a consultant at Washington under coach Chris Petersen.
What about Pat Hill?
While not unheard of for a coach to have two tenures at the same school (Bill Snyder at Kansas State, Chris Ault at Nevada, even Jim Sweeney at Fresno State), I don’t see it happening in this case. Hill seems to be enjoying life as a consultant and as an analyst on Fresno State radio broadcasts, though his commentary has been more critical in recent weeks – and for good reason.
Is there any chance the Bulldogs turn things around this season?
Of course there’s a chance. There’s always a chance, even if it’s as small as the one Jim Carrey’s character had with Lauren Holly’s in “Dumb and Dumber.” Of the seven remaining games, I’d place four into the “winnable” category – Nevada and Colorado State on the road, Hawaii and San Jose State at home.
We’ll make the right decision at the end of the year for the program.
Fresno State athletic director Jim Bartko
Does that mean you think they’ll win four more games and finish 5-7?
No, that’s only the best-case scenario. Problem is, those teams all view the Bulldogs in the same light. I think 3-9 or 2-10 is more likely, based on what we’ve seen so far.
How did things reach this point?
Bottom line, a lack of talent throughout the program. Over the past couple weeks, two NFL scouts told me Fresno State is the least talented team in the Mountain West Conference (excluding Hawaii, who neither had seen). That’s as unbiased an evaluation as you’ll find.
Whose fault is that?
The fault falls squarely on DeRuyter and his coaching staff, who haven’t done nearly a good enough job in recruiting and player development. Just look at the 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes that followed MW championship seasons. Those classes had a combined 15 three-star recruits, as rated by Rivals.com. Dontel James and Da’Mari Scott are the only two left in the program, and Scott hasn’t played all season because of eligibility issues..
What will attendance be like for the last four home games?
Are you enjoying yourself?
Not really. Sports writers root for good stories, and when a team loses 13 of 17 over a 1 1/2 -year stretch it’s no fun for anyone. But unlike players, coaches and fans, there’s no emotional involvement. My opinions are based on reporting and observation, not some ingrained bias. Certainly I’ve become more critical as the losses mount, but that’s my job. So far, my interactions with DeRuyter and his staff have remained cordial. The coaches understand better than anyone they’re in a performance-based industry and that the team’s performance hasn’t been nearly what it needs to be.
FRESNO STATE AT NEVADA
- Saturday: 4 p.m. at Mackay Stadium (30,000)
- Records: Bulldogs 1-4 overall, 0-1 MW; Wolf Pack 2-3, 0-1
- Webcast/radio: ESPN3, KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)