Coach returns to area |

Coach returns to area

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Sacramento State football coach Steve Mooshagian when he trots onto the Mackay Stadium turf today.

Mooshagian, the Hornets’ second-year head coach, was an assistant under Jeff Tisdel in 1996. Under Mooshagian, the Wolf Pack offensive coordinator, Nevada’s offense averaged 526 yards per game and Nevada won the Big West Conference and the Las Vegas Bowl.

“I’m looking forward to going back and facing some of the former guys that I worked with,” he said last week in a telephone interview. “I got hired when he (Chris Ault) named Jeff Tisdel head coach. I took over the role he (Tisdel) had.”

Mooshagian knows Ault well, and credits the veteran head coach and current Wolf Pack assistant Chris Klenakis for making the transition much easier.

“I enjoyed him,” Mooshagian said of Ault. “He sat in on two or three offensive meetings, and I really picked his brain. He was quite helpful. Both he and (Chris) Klenakis were so helpful in teaching me the Wolf Pack offense. Coach K and I are still good friends.”

In fact, Mooshagian said Klenakis stopped by the Sac State campus on his way back up to Nevada on a recruiting trip.

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“He’s a good man,” Klenakis said before Wednesday’s practice. “I really enjoyed working with him. He’s a great guy to work with.

“He has a good understanding for the game; a good mind for the game. He was very enthusiastic.”

For whatever reason, Mooshagian left Nevada after one year. Rumors swirled there was a rift among staff members, but Klenakis was quick to point out that he and Mooshagian get along well.

Mooshagian, who was a 10-year assistant at Fresno State before coming to Nevada, went on to the University of Pittsburgh where he spent two seasons, and in each of those years had one of the NCAA’s top receivers. He was the Cincinnati Bengals’ receiver coach from 1999 to 2002 before coming to Sac State.

Mooshagian came into a bad situation. Athletics has never been a real priority at Sac State. The Hornets had some success under Bob Mattos, who was 84-73-2 in 15 seasons when the Hornets were a Division II team. Mattos is the only coach in school history with a winning record.

Mooshagian is optimistic that things will eventually get turned around.

“It’s been great as far as people within the radius of the university,” he said. “The athletic director, players and president have been great.”

Improvements has been made to the weight room, video equipment and coaching salaries, which are things that plagued previous coaching staffs Mooshagian said. The second-year head coach said that the Recreation, Wellness and Events Center referendum, which was passed last spring, will also help the Hornets’ entire athletic program.

Still, the Hornets must start to get the job done on the football field. The Hornets finished last season with seven straight losses, but they have a new, improved attitude. Mooshagian brought in new coordinators on both sides of the ball as well as 39 new players.

“They’ve done everything we’ve asked,” Mooshagian said. “We’re probably still a year away from where we want to be. We’ve taken a big jump in recruiting. We were in the running for five kids that Nevada signed. We’ve signed some JC kids and gotten some transfers.”

Five of those transfers came from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Ca., and they were able to play right away because the Gaels dropped their program. The Sac State coach said that the overall depth of the team has improved from a year ago.

I’m hopeful that ESPN is willing to pull the trigger and put the Western Athletic Conference on its Big Monday basketball broadcast schedule this year.

The Mountain West Conference used to occupy that time slot, but the conference bolted for College Sports Television. Karl Benson, the WAC commissioner, wants to stay with ESPN.

“They are the leader in sports television,” Benson said during the weekly WAC conference call two weeks ago. “Our future is with ESPN. I’ve let ESPN know that we’re ready to provide teams for Monday night games. I reiterated that last week.”

The WAC and ESPN recently agreed on a six-year deal earlier this summer. The only problem is that none of the football games that are being televised will be shown on a Saturday. The WAC teams will be playing on Sundays, Mondays and Fridays on the ESPN schedule.

And, speaking of TV games, the Nevada Wolf Pack has entered into an agreement with Charter Communications to show several Nevada football games this season. I’m all for road games being shown, but I don’t think home games should be shown unless it’s a sellout. I think it will have an effect on what the Wolf Pack will draw this season.

The new agreement also calls for six basketball games to be aired, including road games at Louisiana Tech, Georgia and Hawai’i. Nevada is expected to have two games on ESPN – the rematch at Kansas in late November and Jan. 1 at Lawlor against Hawai’i.

Contact Darrell Moody at or 881-1281.