Sports Fodder: Mountain West becoming a stepping stone conference for head football coaches

Ken Wilson (Photo: Nevada Athletics)

Ken Wilson (Photo: Nevada Athletics)

Sports Fodder . . . Is the Mountain West growing tired of being considered a stepping stone conference for head football coaches?
The recent hiring of Ken Wilson at Nevada and Timmy Chang at Hawaii suggests that just might be the case. Wilson and Chang, both former Nevada assistants, give the Mountain West eight head coaches that have a strong connection to the university previously as either a player or coach.
Just four Mountain West football coaches in 2022 (Colorado State’s Jay Norvell, Utah State’s Blake Anderson, UNLV’s Marcus Arroyo and Wyoming’s Craig Bohl) have no previous ties to the university before becoming head coach.
Chang and Wilson aren’t the only new head coaches in the Mountain West with a previous connection to their school. Fresno State brought back Jeff Tedford, a former Bulldog player and head coach (2017-19).
The value a “home-grown” head coach has to a Mountain West school are numerous. A home-grown coach, after all, might not leave after his first or second successful season, such as Norvell at Nevada. A home-grown coach also has a familiarity to the school’s fan base, an important consideration for Mountain West schools that struggle to fill stadiums with ticket buyers. That familiarity also likely means a home-grown coach will put a priority on signing local high school players, something that Chang and Wilson have vowed to do in Hawaii and Nevada.
The Mountain West is usually where head coaching careers go to die. But many coaches have used the conference as a stepping stone to more lucrative jobs. Urban Meyer left Utah and Jim McElwain left Colorado State for Florida, Mike Bobo left Colorado State for South Carolina, Dana Dimel left Wyoming for Houston, Matt Wells left Utah State for Texas Tech, Chris Peterson left Boise State for Washington, Nick Rolovich left Hawaii and Kalen DeBoer left Fresno State for Washington State, Norvell left Nevada for Colorado State, Gary Andersen left Utah State for Wisconsin and Bryan Harsin left Boise State for Auburn. Mike MacIntyre left San Jose State for Colorado but that was when the Spartans were in the Western Athletic Conference.
The home-grown theory of hiring a head coach who will never leave also doesn’t always prove true. Harsin, DeBoer, Rolovich, Peterson and Wells all had previous connections to their Mountain West schools. But it also must be noted that Peterson did stay eight years as Boise State’s head and Harsin stayed with the Broncos seven years. DeBoer also was just a Fresno State assistant for two seasons so his Fresno State connection wasn’t all that strong to begin with, unlike Wilson at Nevada and Chang at Hawaii. Wilson was a Nevada assistant for 19 years and Chang, a Honolulu native, is one of the greatest quarterbacks in Hawaii (and college football) history.
The reason Wilson and Chang were hired, first and foremost, is because of their familiarity with their fans bases as well as their connection and loyalty to the university.
“I’m back,” Chang told the Hawaii media recently. “But in my heart I’ve always felt that I never left.”
“This is a dream come true for me,” Wilson told the Nevada media last month.
One has to wonder if new San Jose State quarterback Chevan Cordeiro now regrets his move to the Bay area.
Former Hawaii head coach Todd Graham was fired recently after numerous Rainbow Warriors players complained about his treatment of them. One of the players unhappy with Graham was Cordeiro, the Rainbows’ starting quarterback the past two seasons. Cordeiro was among the first Hawaii players to enter the transfer portal this off-season and he quickly signed with San Jose State.
Now that Chang is the Hawaii coach does Cordeiro wish he didn’t act so hastily? Cordeiro, after all, would likely have a strong bond with Chang.
Both are quarterbacks and both are Honolulu born and raised and former Saint Louis School (high school) star players. The bond between Saint Louis School quarterbacks, a group that also includes Tua Tagavailoa and Marcus Mariota, is strong. Mariota recently congratulated Chang on Twitter after Chang was named Hawaii’s head coach.
Cordeiro will likely end his career at San Jose State. Players can only enter the transfer portal and move to another school and play immediately just one time without sitting out a year.
Cordeiro isn’t the only Mountain West quarterback to jump into the transfer portal this off-season. Mountain West quarterbacks, those leaving and entering the conference, have flooded the transfer portal since the 2021 season ended.
More than half of the dozen Mountain West teams have had quarterbacks in the transfer portal the last couple months.
The Nevada Wolf Pack lost Clay Millen to Colorado State. The Wolf Pack then grabbed quarterback Baylor Horning from San Diego State. The Aztecs have had three quarterbacks in the transfer portal with Jordon Brookshire and Lucas Johnson joining Horning. The Aztecs then signed Braxton Burmeister of Virginia Tech out of the portal.
One Mountain West quarterback (Fresno State’s Jake Haener) entered the portal and then took his name out and returned to his school.
Colorado State’s Todd Centeio jumped into the portal and signed with James Madison. UNLV’s Justin Rogers is now in the portal looking for a new home. Boise State’s Jake Sears entered the portal and the Broncos signed Oregon State’s Sam Vidlak.
Wilson, whose Wolf Pack lost numerous players via the portal after Norvell left for Colorado State, has been extremely active in the transfer portal.
Wilson, who coached at Oregon the past three seasons, has reminded us all that ducks do indeed fly south for the winter.
Wilson has grabbed four former Oregon Ducks out of the transfer portal. Joining the Pack from Oregon are running back Cross Patton, wide receiver Spencer Curtis, offensive lineman Kai Arneson and tight end Cooper Shults.
Wilson also dipped into the portal to get Arizona wide receiver Brian Casteel, Michigan defensive back Darion Green-Warren, Colorado State offensive lineman Cole Feinauer and San Diego State offensive lineman Joey Capra.
So, yes, Norvell isn’t the only coach who knows how to steal players from other schools out of the portal.

Who is going to play quarterback for the Wolf Pack in 2022? That, of course, is anybody’s guess right now.
Nate Cox, who started in the Quick Lane Bowl, is still on the roster as are Drew Scolari, Jake Barlage and Jonah Chong.
Scolari, from Bishop Manogue, is the grandson of former coach Chris Ault. Wilson coached under Ault for 15 years so Scolari will likely see the field at some point. Wilson, after all, knows why he is head coach right now.
Cox has certainly earned the first crack at the job. The 6-foot-9 quarterback (the tallest starting quarterback in college football last year, even if it was for just one game) looked solid running for his life in the Quick Lane Bowl. He can see over any defense known to man and he has studied the Air Raid offense. He has one strong season as a junior college quarterback at Garden City College in Kansas in 2019 under his belt and also spent two years practicing with Louisiana Tech.
It’s no secret that Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge are extremely important to the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team.
But this season they might be becoming even more crucial to the team’s success. Head coach Steve Alford certainly thinks so.
The Wolf Pack has played six Mountain West games this season and there has not been a single second that the Wolf Pack has been on the floor without both Sherfield and Cambridge.
At least one of them and likely both of them have been on the court for every second of every Mountain West game this season. That shouldn’t surprise anyone since Sheffield (19.2) and Cambridge (15.8) are the team’s top two scorers this season, just like they were a year ago (Sherfield at 18.6 and Cambridge at 16.3).
The Pack has played just a total of 21 minutes this entire season without Sherfield or Cambridge on the floor. All 21 minutes came in the Pack’s 11 non-conference games.
It was certainly refreshing to see the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers on the road last weekend with nothing but defense and special teams. That was old school football at its best and not the video game silliness we saw in the Kansas City Chiefs win over the Buffalo Bills.
The 49ers’ defense and special teams could do the same to the Los Angeles Rams this weekend. The 49ers certainly know how to beat the Rams and it’s about time Rams’ quarterback Matt Stafford remembers that he is, well, Matt Stafford. The Rams should win by two touchdowns (the Rams have an offense and a defense) but the hope here is that the final is something like 49ers 12, Rams 11. That means that the 49ers will likely meet the Chiefs in the Super Bowl in a Jimmy Garoppolo-Patrick Mahomes rematch of a couple Super Bowls ago. This time Jimmy G wins The Big Game and the 49ers are forced to spend the off-season pulling their hair out wondering if they should give the starting quarterback job to Trey Lance.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment