UNLV's Hauck Has Hot Seat To Himself In MWC
By Ken Pomponio
If the Mountain West Conference coaching fraternity was an actual frat, it would just be applying for a charter this fall.
Of the league’s dozen coaches, only four have been in their current positions longer than three seasons. We start with the dean of MWC coaches, Boise State’s Chris Petersen, who’s entering his eighth season in charge of the Broncos. We then have Air Force’s Troy Calhoun (heading into his seventh year), Wyoming’s Dave Christensen (fifth season) and and UNLV’s Bobby Hauck (fourth season).
The rest are a bunch of Johnny-Come-Latelies, including a trio of first-year field bosses in Nevada’s Brian Polian, San Jose State’s Ron Caragher and Utah State’s Matt Wells, all of whom are running FBS programs for the first time.
With that in mind, here’s a closer look at the Mountain West head coaches, grouped into four categories.
Coach For Life?
- Petersen, Boise State: When Dan Hawkins departed Boise after the 2005 season, many wondered if the Blue and Orange magic was leaving with him. Petersen, however, has taken the Broncos to new heights, going 84-8 in his seven seasons — a full 10 wins better than any other FBS program over that span — winning or sharing five conference titles, going 5-2 in seven bowl appearances, including four straight wins, and luring quality recruits to Idaho year-in and year-out. Yeah, we guess that puts Petersen atop the MWC coaching ranks.
Safe And Solid
- Calhoun, Air Force: The Falcons fell on hard times under former head coach Fisher DeBerry with three straight losing seasons in the middle of the previous decade, but Calhoun has piloted his alma mater to a 47-31 record and six bowl appearances in six seasons. AFA still hasn’t won a conference title since its final season in the Western Athletic Conference (1998), but the Falcons have dominated regional rivals Colorado State, Wyoming and New Mexico under Calhoun, going 16-2, andmore importantly have gone 7-5 in Commander-in-Chief games against Army and Navy, capturing a pair of trophies in the process.
- Christensen, Wyoming: It’s been an up-and-down four-year ride for Christensen’s Cowboys with 7-6, 3-9, 8-5 and 4-8 finishes and a win and a loss in two New Mexico Bowl appearances. Christensen is entering the second season of a five-year extension, and if the trend holds, it will be a successful one for the Pokes. Wyoming has 15 returning starters, led by underrated junior QB Brett Smith.
- Rocky Long, San Diego State: After an 11-year run at New Mexico, Long made a successful move West. After spending two seasons as the Aztecs’ defensive coordinator, Long was elevated to the top spot in 2011 and guided SDSU to a 17-9 record and a pair of bowl games. This past season, SDSU rebounded nicely from a 2-3 start, reeling off seven straight wins, including a unheard-of 21-19 victory in Boise, en route to a share of the MWC regular-season title.
Squirming On The Hot Seat
- Hauck, UNLV: When we say hot, we mean scorching. Hauck has gone a ghastly 6-32 in three seasons in the desert, making his run of success (80-17 and three title game appearances in seven seasons) at FCS Montana seem like a mirage. Let’s put it this way: Of the 16 FBS programs who have won a combined 10 or fewer games during the last three seasons, only UNLV, Buffalo and Eastern Michigan have the same coach back for a fourth go-around this fall. Akron is the lone FBS school with fewer wins (6) than the Rebels during that span, and while Hauck has had his original three-year contract extended by two seasons through 2014, he knows it’s a do-or-die 2013 with a new athletic director set to take over and the Rebels returning a league-high 19 starters.
Just Getting Started
- Caragher, San Jose State: The former UCLA QB and successful head coach at FCS San Diego (44-22, 3 conference titles) inherits 15 returning starters — including standout QB David Fales and nine other first- or second-team All-WAC selections — from Mike McIntyre, who led the Spartans to a school record-tying 11 wins in 2012.
- Norm Chow, Hawaii: Chow’s long-awaited head-coaching debut wasn’t pretty with a 3-9 finish. Those three wins came at home against the likes of FCS Lamar, UNLV (2-11) and South Alabama (2-11), but the Warriors did have an nation-most 32 players making their first FBS starts in 2012.
- Bob Davie, New Mexico: The former Notre Dame head coach and ESPN analyst finished just 4-9 in his UNM debut, but considering that the program had gone 3-33 the previous three seasons, it convinced the New Mexico brass this spring to extend Davie’s contract through 2019.
- Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State: It was a dismal finale in paradise this past December for the Bulldogs with a 43-10 loss to SMU in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, but DeRuyter’s head-coaching debut was a successful one by any measure with a 9-4 record and a share of the MWC regular-season title.
- Jim McElwain, Colorado State: The former Alabama offensive coordinator went 4-8 in his Fort Collins debut season, but CSU did win three of its final five in 2012, and McElwain didn’t exactly inherit a stocked pantry with the Rams scoring one winning season (7-6 in 2008) in the previous eight years.
- Polian, Nevada: Polian comes from a football family, but there’s a lot to live up to in Reno for the 38-year-old who’s never been a head coach or even a coordinator at any level. That’s how it is when you follow in the footsteps of College Hall-of-Famer Chris Ault, who guided the Wolf Pack to a 95-56 record and 10 bowl appearances in 12 seasons.
- Wells, Utah State: Wells, a former Aggies quarterback and the program’s offensive coordinator in 2012, is also a first-time head coach with his own footsteps to follow in Logan, where Gary Andersen led USU to a school-record 11 wins, including a bowl victory, and its first outright conference title since 1936.