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Ranking The Mountain West Head Football Coaches

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Who do you want leading your program? Which head coaches aren’t just the right fit at the moment, but for five years from now? Taking all the current coaches, here’s the ranking of the current Mountain West head coaches.


You’re the athletic director at a Mountain West school and you need to find a head coach for your football team. You’re only able to look at the current head men currently running the other conference teams, and you have to decide who the best fit would be for the next five years and beyond.

Obviously you want to win right now, but your job is to set the course for the next half-decade and build the team into something big. You have to find a guy who can sell a prospect on the idea of continuity – who’s going to be the guy recruits want to have running the show when they’re fifth-year seniors? Who could be a strong coach for the future, while also winning right now? Who has the right combination?

Only 29 current head coaches have been around for five years or more, so the chances are overwhelming that most of these guys won’t be manning the post when the current recruiting class exhausts its eligibility – this list isn’t kind to old coaches.

Going into the 2016 season, here’s the ranking of the Mountain West coaches to build around, while still trying to win this year, too.

12. Rocky Long, San Diego State

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: Known as the coach who couldn’t get his New Mexico program to Point C, he had a solid 11-year run in Albuquerque before a 4-8 season got him canned. His second stint as a head coach has been a phenomenal one, going 43-24 with two Mountain West titles in five years at San Diego State. His 2016 team should be his best one yet, with his style of tough running and nasty defense getting the job done.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: 66 – that’s the only reason he’s 12th. There aren’t too many 71-year-old head coaches around, but he gets to live in San Diego, he’s creating a potential monster, and he could very easily keep on rolling for years if the success continues.

11. Nick Rolovich, Hawaii

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: The Rainbow Warriors need to find their spark for a program with an offense that hasn’t produced much over the last several years. The former bomber of a Hawaii quarterback, Rolovich knows what the team needs to do to make the passing game fun, even if he’s going from a run as Nevada’s offensive coordinator. He’ll get plenty of time to grow with the program.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: The idea of eliminating the football program has been floated out there from time to time. It’s not likely to happen, but it’s been a concern whenever budget concerns come up. Rolovich has to create a winner as soon as possible – no pressure.

10. Bob Davie, New Mexico

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: He’s finally starting to break through. After bringing a dignified presence back to the New Mexico program following an 11-year hiatus from head coaching, last year was his first winning season in the rebuilding process. Turning 62 this fall, he’s still got plenty of coaching still to go.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: Age has a lot to do with why he’s so low on the list, but the other concern for the future could be his former life as a broadcaster. He can afford a two bad years and not be pushed out of a job, but there’s a chance he might go back to a more relaxed world in the booth.

9. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: Do this list three years ago and he might be at the top after crushing a 20-6 record with two Mountain West titles in his first two years and a West Division title in his third. He hasn’t become an awful head coach in one year, and he’s too good a defensive mind to let the Bulldogs keep slipping.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: Maybe the hot start really was because he had Derek Carr under center. He’s a defensive coach whose defenses haven’t been producing, while the offense went from being unstoppable to a disaster. Fresno State is supposed to be among the elite in the Mountain West, and another 3-9 season could be a major problem.

8. Ron Caragher, San Jose State

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: San Jose State isn’t the impossible job it used to be, but it’s hardly easy to succeed on a consistent basis. The former UCLA quarterback has done a decent job, going 15-22 with two six-win seasons in his three years, and he was fantastic for San Diego for six seasons before making the move. A strong offensive mind, his attacks are always going to be interesting.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: Just 49 and with assistant coaching ties to UCLA and Kentucky, there’s an outside chance he becomes a name on the list if he has a few surprisingly great years. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, one total clunker of a season and he’ll probably go back to being a top assistant somewhere.

7. Craig Bohl, Wyoming

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: An all-time great at the FCS level with three national titles with North Dakota State, he’s slowly trying to turn around a nearly impossible situation with the Cowboys. It’s been a rocky run so far, going 6-18, but there were glimpses of greatness with his ground game. He’s a special head coach who’ll get a few years to see what he can do.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: He’ll be 58 at the start of the season. There aren’t any signs of slowing down, and if he can make Wyoming into the new Bison, there’s a chance he’ll be a lifer with the program. But first he needs to start winning and then stick around into his sixties. If he somehow has a gigantic year, the Lincoln, Nebraska native and Husker graduate could look interesting if the Mike Riley experience doesn’t work.

6. Brian Polian, Nevada

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: While he hasn’t been able to come up with the big success of past Nevada teams, two straight 7-6 seasons aren’t that bad. He’s had time to make the program his own, and at only 41, he’s still learning on the fly. An assistant at Notre Dame, Stanford and Texas A&M, he learned from the best, and now he’s due for a big year.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: It’s not like the expectations are at an insane level, but Wolf Pack fans got used to their teams being offensive juggernauts that contended for conference titles. Being an also-ran in Reno isn’t going to cut it.

5. Tony Sanchez, UNLV

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: A rising superstar, he only went 3-9 in his first season at UNLV, but he’s an offensive whiz coming off a legendary six-year run at Bishop Gorman High in Vegas. Only 42, he’s the right coach at the right program in a city that might blowup sports-wise if it gets a pro team and an NFL-caliber stadium.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: If he has any semblance of success he’s going to be wanted by someone really, really big. He’s young, knows how to win, and is only missing a little bit more college experience – and several wins. At some point, UNLV might have to open up the checkbook to keep him around – he’s going to be that good.

4. Matt Wells, Utah State

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: 43 this August, Wells is still a bright young coach, even if he’s coming off a disappointing 6-7 season. 19-9 in his first two seasons including a Mountain Division title in 2013, he’s been able to keep the momentum going from the Gary Andersen era.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: Even though he’s a former Utah State quarterback, and he only has one season as an assistant with a Power Five program – Louisville – he’s too young and too promising to stay in Logan for forever. While he might not get a giant job like the one Andersen left for at Wisconsin, he’s one great year away from being considered for a next-step-up opportunity.

3. Mike Bobo, Colorado State

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: The 42-year-old had to step in for Jim McElwain and do a bit of reloading. He still needs time and seasoning, but he’s a top offensive mind who cut his teeth as Mark Richt’s offensive coordinator at Georgia and has a world of upside as a renowned quarterback coach. Soon, if not this year, the Colorado State passing game will explode under his watch.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: The guy was born in Georgia, went to Georgia, and was an assistant all but one year at Georgia from 1998 to 2014 – the SEC world is the big prize. McElwain parlayed his little bit of success into the Florida job – Bobo might be headed down a similar path with a few big seasons.

2. Troy Calhoun, Air Force

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: It’s hard to find too many head coaches who’ve done more with less. Remember, this is a service academy – it’s not bringing in the five-star NFL prospects on a regular basis. While he only has one division title and no conference championships, he’s helped keep Air Force consistently solid with seven winning seasons in his nine years.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: He only turns 50 this season. While he was a quarterback for Air Force, if he was ever going to try making a big move, next year might be it with one of his best teams returning. He’s got NFL experience as an assistant, but after a decade with the program he’s ready for the next step up college gig.

1. Bryan Harsin, Boise State

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: The former Boise State quarterback came home and picked the program back up after Chris Petersen left for Washington going 21-6 in his first two seasons with a Mountain West title and a Fiesta Bowl win. Throw in his one year at Arkansas State, and the soon-to-be 40-year-old has two conference championships in three seasons with a heater of a team returning.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: He only makes $1 million a year, and a bigger program – like Texas, for example – would most certainly pay a whole lot more if there’s an opening. If Boise State has the season it’s expected to crank out, he’s going to be one of the hottest coaches on the market. Of course, that’s if he wants to leave his alma mater.

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