One of my favorite stories I’ve read in the last few weeks was ESPN’s article about Washington football coach Kalen DeBoer and his trajectory in going from building an NAIA powerhouse at Sioux Falls to the becoming the head coach of a team about to play Michigan for the National Championship on Monday, January 8.
The story gets into the experience of building Sioux Falls into a perennial winner without FBS-type resources, which I found to be fascinating. It paints a vivid picture of what coaching/playing football at that level is like.
There were many stops for DeBoer as an offensive coordinator along the way — Southern Illinois to Eastern Michigan, then Fresno State, then Indiana — before he got his big break as the head coach of a Power Five school.
Here’s Fresno State AD Terry Tummey on his decision to bring on DeBoer as head coach after Jeff Tedford had to step away due to medical issues.
“Having that understanding of Kalen’s success at the NAIA level really was the difference-maker because it gave you a definite understanding of his capacity to be competitive,” Tummey said. “As we know, head coaches now, you got to be able to have compassion and understanding for what these players are enduring on a day-to-day basis. That’s the part I had seen at Fresno State [when he was the OC]. He was the perfect candidate for us then.”
It’s been nearly seven years since I started Contact College Coaches.
The football database was the third one I built. At the time, I thought it would become our best-seller (as it now is), but it was also extremely daunting.
There were several reasons why.
There are more than 10,000 people listed in the six divisions of the football database. There is also has a ton of turnover, especially in the months following the college-football season. More than any other sport.
We’ve automated several of our processes in recent years, but those first 18 months of updating the football database (as well as the men’s and women’s basketball databases) required me to go to each directory and identify changes by hand. Not a fun process, with thousands of people changing jobs and switching roles in the months of January and February of 2018 and 2019.
But the thing that Kyle Bonagura’s story on DeBoer reminded me is that these changes serve a purpose. That’s something I tend to forget. I’d assume others do, too.
During the time when I was still checking data by hand, DeBoer was moving from Fresno State to Indiana — where he met eventual Washington star QB Michael Penix Jr. — and he was named Fresno State’s head coach in 2020.
Those job changes allowed him to prove himself, form bonds with other coaches and prepare for the biggest moments of his coaching career. They also allowed him to continue to grow into a potential FBS National Championhip-winning coach.
What a cool story.