DeBoer named Fresno State head coach

Offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer’s move from Fresno State to Indiana was such a rousing success, it seemed likely a head-coaching offer would come his way at some point.

That job offer just happened to come from his previous stop.

DeBoer was introduced as Fresno State’s next head football coach Tuesday. He replaces Jeff Tedford, who is stepping down following his third season with the Bulldogs.

“It was a dream at some point, when I was here, to maybe be in this position. It really was,” DeBoer said during his introductory press conference in Fresno.

This will be DeBoer’s first job as a Division I head coach, but it’s not his first entirely. He was a three-time national champion leading NAIA Sioux Falls from 2005-09. He made stops as an offensive coordinator at Southern Illinois (’10-13), Eastern Michigan (’14-16), and Fresno State (’17-18).

Fresno State athletic director Terry Tumey pointed to DeBoer’s 67-3 record at Sioux Falls.

“We needed a person who had unparalleled success as a head coach, and I think we found that person,” Tumey said. 

A track record of improving offenses led Tom Allen to recruit DeBoer to the Hoosiers for 2019, landing him the richest contract an IU assistant had ever received. The coordinator and quarterbacks coach proved to be worth the nearly $1 million investment, factoring heavily into an 8-4 regular season and a Gator Bowl appearance.

From the 2018 season to the next, IU went from 39th nationally in third-down offense (42.4 percent) to 11th (48.2), 85th in passing efficiency (128) to 21st (153.8), and 93rd in time of possession (28:48) to fifth (34:05).

IU also tied its program record for most games of 30-plus points, totaling nine. That included 30-plus in eight of the Hoosiers’ first nine contests, a program best.

“You talk about a special group of coaches and players that included me into their team and their program instantaneously,” DeBoer said of the Hoosier program. “Everything I asked from the coaches, everything I asked from the players, was received so well. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

DeBoer alluded to Allen’s “love each other” mantra, as well.

“It’s about love there, just like it’s going to be about love here,” DeBoer said. “I love those guys and certainly want to see them again, before I make my official last moments and head this way. I’ll never forget the one year I spent at Indiana University under Tom Allen and those players and coaches.”

DeBoer did not specifically say whether he intends to coach IU’s bowl game or not.

What will inevitably be most impressive about DeBoer’s brief tenure was the Hoosiers’ consistency despite injuries at key positions. While redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was named the starter out of fall camp, injuries forced backup Peyton Ramsey into extended action. IU also lost its most well-regarded blocker, senior left tackle Coy Cronk, in the fourth game of the season.

Ramsey has completed 69.2 percent of his passes, which ranks ninth in the country. His completion rate, along with a 68.8 percent mark for Penix, would rank as the No. 1 and No. 2 for a single season in IU history.

Paired with a tactician renowned for his play-calling and attention to detail, Ramsey was especially good at limiting mistakes. He had 13 interceptions as a redshirt sophomore, but that number reduced to four as a redshirt junior.

“There is always a check-down guy, there are always guys getting open and making my life a lot easier,” Ramsey said in November. “On that same note, I would say the decision-making process, (DeBoer) simplifies things so much. He makes it easier and quicker to go through progressions.

“When you are able to identify things pre-snap because you are so prepared and so locked in, that’s a credit to how he teaches us throughout the week, and what we are able to do on Saturdays when guys are running wide open.”

Among those who have known DeBoer well, there has always been a feeling that DeBoer would become a D-I head coach at some point. That includes his college coach at Sioux Falls, Bob Young, who saw the move to IU as a step in that direction.

Young also believed DeBoer’s move to IU was made, in part, because he wasn’t certain how long Tedford would stay.

“The only thing Kalen was kind of struggling with was moving his family again. At what point do you quit moving?” Young said in August. “He also wasn’t sure if taking over the head-coaching job at Fresno was an option.

“The more he realized that was still going to be a few years down the road, the Indiana opportunity became more appealing to him and moving his family.”

DeBoer admitted as much during his press conference, saying he was “torn” about leaving Fresno State following the 2018 season.

He mentioned staying up until 2:30 a.m. on some nights to watch Fresno State’s games this season, because he was still invested in the Bulldog program.

“When I left here, it was probably the hardest thing in my coaching career,” DeBoer said. “I kind of get emotional thinking about that. I was really torn on what to do, because I knew what this place was all about and what it represented. I am so blessed to be back here in this position and can’t wait to serve you and the entire community here at Fresno State.”

Tedford, who was previously a longtime coach at Cal, has indicated he is stepping away from his alma mater for health reasons. DeBoer was immediately mentioned as a top candidate when Tedford’s exit was reported.

Tedford and DeBoer were 22-6 in their two years together at Fresno State, which was a stark contrast from the one-win season of 2016. In 2019, the Bulldogs finished 4-8.

“Love is a strong word, and I don’t use it loosely. I told the players this, as well. I love Jeff Tedford. I really do,” DeBoer said. “You guys see the football coach that is extremely smart, talented, relates to players, has great command of game management. But working with him every day for two years, I got to see Jeff Tedford the human being.”

DeBoer is now tasked with shepherding Tedford’s alma mater back to prominence in the Mountain West Conference.

“I know 12-2 is the best it’s ever been, it just happened a year ago. That’s my expectation, not shy to put it out there. We are going to win football games here,” DeBoer said. “We are going to do it the right way. We are going to do it with integrity. You are going to be proud in the Valley of a first-class football program where guys represent our community and are out in the community serving others and being fully engaged in where the support comes.

“Can’t wait to get Bulldog Stadium full, fill it, bring excitement. We are going to be a tough football team, what Bulldog football is all about. We are going to play with passion. We are going to play with grit. I can’t wait to get out there with them.”

26 comments

  1. For IU it was good while it lasted. When it comes to the big leagues regarding assistant coaches IU football will always be a stepping stone.
    Big league programs are able to keep successful assistants for a longer period of time. M At least T.A. seems to have found a home for the longer haul at IU.

    1. Since when is Fresno St. the big leagues? But I was sure wrong about this one, for the record, I had posted that no way was DeBoer taking a backward step to second tier FBS program. Shows what I know.

  2. It depends on the situation. Bama turns over a majority of their assistant coaches every year. On the other hand, Clemson has kept the majority of their assistants during Dabo’s tenure.

  3. That’s fair. Yes, I can’t speak for even most programs but I have seen some longer tenure coaches as assistants in major programs.

  4. Part of the Hoosier curse? Just when things start looking up, you get a kick to the head from behind.

    I had an interesting conversation at the beginning of the season with a guy who played for Deboer at Southern Illinois and then was a grad assistant at IU for 3 years including this spring after Deboer joined the staff. He loved Tom Allen and other members of the staff, but he didn’t have that high of an opinion of Deboer. He said Deboer was all about Deboer and he predicted he wouldn’t be around IU for long. Quite accurate appraisal!

    Deboer being announced today could not have come at a worse time for IU with National Signing coming up tomorrow. The good thing is Deboer appears to have so far been the lead recruiter on only two commits, both at the bottom of the recruiting list. One was the QB from Ga. Question is, how many 2021 recruits was Deboer the lead?

    The final question is whether or not Deboer will be the play caller for the Gator Bowl? If not, who does that role fall to, and how will that affect the offensive performance of the team. Hart has been a fantastic recruiter, our best by far, but can he call plays and ultimately be an OC?

    1. R67,
      You put your finger on something I have been wondering about for a while regarding Coach Hart. If he can call plays, make him the OC, I can only see good things coming for as long as IUFB can keep him. Nothing wrong with IUFB being a stepping stone for coaches on the way up. Makes it a lot easier to get higher coaching talent coming in to replace what you are losing.

  5. Folks, of course this stings. But DeBoer wasn’t going to be an assistant for long. The man won National Championships as a HEAD COACH prior to making the leap to D-1. He’s not just smart play caller, the man exudes leadership and has all the traits of a great head coach. Let’s say that DeBoer, and not Allen, was the assistant to Kevin Wilson this year and we just removed him. Glass may have promoted him as a promising up and comer.

    ANYWAY, while it stinks to lose him, I think Tom Allen has shown that this is a desirable location for a creative offensive minded assistant. Allen provides a great culture to walk into and leaves his assistants to do their jobs, which is what a strong minded, ambitious coach would want. I think we’ll do well with our next hire.

    And good luck to DeBoer. I’m gonna put a few of those Fresno State games on my radar for late night West Coast viewing next year. I really like this guy and think he’ll do well there. But my heart goes out to anyone who has to live in Fresno…

  6. DD, the way I see it DITTO everything about 4×. I believe I’d let Sheridan call the plays in the bowl game. He probably has had more to do with offensive game planning and scheming than any of the other coaches.

  7. I confess that I didn’t think DeBoer would take this job. I was wrong. Those of you who expressed concern when the Fresno State job became available were right.

    But honestly, I think this could be a big mistake for DeBoer. Yes he gets a huge raise. Yes he achieves his ambition of being a head coach at a BCS school. But Fresno is a dump and Fresno State FB is an afterthought in California. There are better schools and better FB programs in the same conference. There’s a very good chance that DeBoer is going to struggle to turn Fresno State into something that can get him a job as a head coach at a Power-five conference team. But I wish him the best of luck.

    Next man up!

    1. I’ll take that bet any day. DeBoer will be successful there. Fresno might be a dump but it certainly doesn’t mean he can’t win there. I’d be willing to bet that in 2 to 3 years he’ll be a HC at a P5 program.

    2. PO, if DeBoer wins a couple of conf. titles he’ll be wanted by plenty of P5s. That’s the coaching carousel.

  8. The question is on my 70th birthday, does TA have a “check down guy”? I hope so. Is he leaving immediately or sticking around for the Gator Bowl?

  9. They should take a good look at Hart for the OC job. He’s done an excellent job as running backs coach and he’s an excellent recruiter. Given his experience at Michigan and in the NFL, not to mention his coaching stops along the way, Hart knows what it takes to compete at the highest level. And he may be a man that would be satisfied to remain IU’s OC for more than a couple of years.

    But if not Hart, given what IU was paying DeBoer, there won’t be a shortage of candidates to choose from. There must be a bunch of successful mid-major offensive coordinators that would love to make $800,000 a year coaching for a program on the rise in the Big Ten Conference.

  10. fish, you may be right, but my point was that with another year of success as IU’s OC, DeBoer could probably have gotten a head coaching job at a much better school, located in a much better community, for more money. And it certainly would not have been difficult to find a better community for his family to live in. But hey, I guess when you come from South Dakota, it’s all relative. I obviously have a bias, but I would not send my child to Fresno State if it was the last university in the world.

    I would think DeBoer is already gone and that he will be focused on recruiting for his new team and therefore will not be available at IU’s bowl game.

  11. I am sorry to see coach DeBoer and wish him well at his new job. It would have been great to keep him for several years but IU can get another very good OC to lead the offense. It will be interesting to see who calls plays in the Bowl Game and how they do. It will also be interesting to see what direction coach Allen takes to replace coach DeBoer. Does he stay inside or go outside to bring in someone with a great track record as OC. I have to wonder if coach Allen has some conversations with coach Creighton about if he would be willing to move from HC to OC at a B1G school. People are naming a lot of perspective OCs but they are factoring the LEO factor that not all coaches possess. If coach Allen goes outside I would guess he would name an OC after the coaching convention Jan 12th – 14th. It will be big news around Hoosier land when he does name the new OC.

    1. v, I’ve liked Chris Creighton for years. I wanted him or Wilson back when Wilson was named HC.
      With a $.5m “help wanted” sign in the window and an 8-4 record IUFB is going to have a plentiful catalog of OC candidates. I, undoubtedly like you, could name 7,8 or 9 reasonably young OC’s (like DeBoer) that would tickle my fancy/fantasy right down to the ground. I’ve 3 in particular. 1 is a bit of a sleeper.

  12. The priorities for Indiana Football: 1) finish the recruiting strong, don’t lose any commitments and get the 4 star DE from AZ; 2) quickly figure out who will be the OC/QB Coach/ play caller for the bowl game; 3) take all of our money and recruit a great new OC/QB Coach/Play Caller but put in serious buy out penalties; 4) go and win the bowl game; 5) keep the momentum of LEO as strong as ever!

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