As Tim DeRuyter made his way to the front of the Josephine Theater for Monday’s news conference, the backside of his khakis was free from scorch marks.
In other words, no visible sign of the proverbial hot seat DeRuyter occupies as Fresno State kicks off the 2016 season.
A Google search for “Tim DeRuyter hot seat” brings some 2,700 results, only a couple authored by the handsome devil whose words you’re currently clinging to. There are many kindred spirits, both here in the Valley and at all points of cyberspace, eager to place the man in a temperature-controlled chaise.
The Associated Press lists DeRuyter among 12 FBS coaches “in need of some wins and a change of trajectory to save their jobs.” Sports on Earth has him No. 6 among coaches “under pressure to win this fall, their jobs potentially on the line.”
There’s even a website devoted to the subject, coacheshotseat.com, which ranks DeRuyter No. 14 among his peers and No. 1 in the Mountain West ahead of Wyoming’s Craig Bohl (No. 16) and San Jose State’s Ron Caragher (No. 19).
College Football News, which also puts DeRuyter No. 14 in its hot seat rankings, has this to say:
“The problem is that the program is trending down after looking dominant early in his era. 9-17 in his last two years after starting out 20-6, DeRuyter should have Fresno State competing for Mountain West titles. Another 3-9 season would be tough to get past.”
The problem is that the program is trending down after looking dominant early in his era.
College Football News, on Tim DeRuyter
That’s as good a synopsis as any. After looking dominant early in DeRuyter’s era, the Bulldogs are indeed trending down. His two-year splits make that beyond dispute. Fresno State, with its access to talent, should be competing for MW titles. Another three-win season would be tough to get past – now there’s a rare example of subtlety on the Internet.
Left unsaid are certain inescapable truths: DeRuyter’s early triumphs were built largely on players he inherited from his predecessor. Since Derek Carr & Co. left the building, the next wave of Bulldogs made barely a ripple.
Following two good years and two bad – don’t even try to nitpick over 2014, when Fresno State won a West Division more watered down than a Monday margarita – Year 5 becomes the fulcrum.
Either the Bulldogs start trending in a positive direction, with a fairly youthful depth chart portending better things to come, or the gig is likely up. (Provided, of course, Fresno State makes good on the guaranteed $3.2 million left on DeRuyter’s contract beyond this season.)
$3.2M guaranteed salary remaining on Tim DeRuyter’s contract that runs through 2018
While great fun to gauge college football coaches by the melting point of their derrieres, and practically a national obsession, in this case it barely grazes the fleshy parts.
Certainly the person ultimately responsible for Bulldogs football, the engine that powers a $33 million athletic budget, is DeRuyter. He is well compensated for that responsibility. That’s why it’s his buns that are getting toasty.
But before relegating DeRuyter to the hot seat all by his lonesome, sit back a moment and take in the bigger picture. You’ll find there’s room enough for athletic director Jim Bartko, President Joseph Castro and, by extension, anyone with a vested interest in the Bulldogs brand.
Fresno State’s stated goal, straight from the mouth of Castro and echoed by Bartko, is to “dominate” the MW. That is all well and good, except when more than half the league has the stated goal of getting out.
Unlike Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico and Air Force, the Bulldogs are not applying for Big 12 membership. The reason, Bartko admits, is because they aren’t ready yet.
A third straight losing season in football, on the heels of last year’s $800,000 budget shortfall, won’t make them any more so. Best case, they keep tightening the belt. Worst, it stalls the momentum behind Bartko’s ambitious renovation plan for Bulldog Stadium. Which would cement Fresno State’s “not ready” status for perpetuity.
A third straight losing season in football doesn’t help the athletic department lengthen its donor roll. It doesn’t help fundraisers round up more money for scholarships, nor bring casual fans through the turnstiles.
A third straight losing season in football doesn’t help the athletic department lengthen its donor roll. It doesn’t help fundraisers round up more money for scholarships or bring casual fans through the turnstiles.
A third straight losing season in football is the last thing Fresno State can literally or figuratively afford. This is the time to be gaining ground on the competition, not ceding it.
While it’s unlikely the Big 12 welcomes any MW member to the Power Five club, the Bulldogs and Bulldogs fans should be more concerned with what comes next. This might be an early tremor in the tectonic shift that sends NCAA Division I into another period of conference instability. Perhaps even bring about the Judgment Day so many have predicted, when Group of Five schools must show their goods to the cabal or get relegated to FCS-level prominence.
After all, it wouldn’t be the first time Fresno State gets caught up in such machinations. (Remember the MW-WAC breakup of 1998 and all those tilts against UTEP, Rice and SMU.) Only this time, the consequences could be more severe.
For an institution and fan base that longs to compete on the big stage and is desperate for a seat at the adult table, a sustained run of football wretchedness is the howitzer that blows that dream to bits.
So even though DeRuyter finds himself on the hot seat, he shouldn’t be the only one with a warm tush. In fact, “hot seat” might be the wrong metaphor altogether.
Starting to feel more like a sauna.
Save the dates
Home games in CAPS
Sept. 3: at Nebraska, 5 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Sept. 10: SACRAMENTO STATE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17: at Toledo, noon (KSEE-24.1; ESPN3)
Sept. 24: TULSA, 1:30 p.m. (MWN)
Oct. 1: at UNLV, 7:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Oct. 8: at Nevada, TBA (ESPN network TBD)
Oct. 14: SAN DIEGO STATE, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
Oct. 22: at Utah State, 7:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Oct. 28: AIR FORCE, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Nov. 5: at Colorado State, 12:30 p.m. (ROOT SPORTS/MWN)
Nov. 12: BYE
Nov. 19: HAWAII, 4 p.m.
Nov. 26: SAN JOSE STATE, 12:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Dec. 3: Mountain West Championship, TBA