Who will be the Next Cal Head Coach?

Tom Holmoe, arguably the nicest guy in D-I football coaching circles, said before the season that if Cal didn't have a winning season, he'd resign. Sadly, that worst-case scenario has happened and it's now a fact that the former 49er defensive back will be coaching his last few games on the Bears' sidelines in the upcoming weeks.

So with his resignation now tendered the talk will be on who Holmoe's replacement will be.

There are some interesting candidates, from current and former Cal coaches and players to even a potential high school coaching legend.

There is a lot of string-pulling going on behind the scenes and this we do know: athletic director Steve Gladstone was once on the athletic director selection committee and some think that the previous A.D., John Kasser, quit in large part because he didn't want to be the one to drop the ax on Holmoe.

There is a small, but very influential alumni group (as few as two or three), who are reportedly looking over Gladstone's shoulder and whispering in his ear regarding hiring suggestions.

Some even think there's a deal done and when Holmoe exits, a new coach could be brought in quickly. If that's the case, it could be a name and face very familiar to Cal football fans.

Whatever happens, it better be quick and seamless if there's any chance of salvaging any of this year's recruiting class. The Golden Bears currently have a few verbal commitments, but quite frankly potential recruits won't commit 100% to Cal until they know for certain who Cal's head coach will be for the 2002 season and beyond.

The problem has been, and will continue to be, getting someone to win and then stay in Berkeley. Many coaches, like Keith Gilbertson and Holmoe, simply haven't gotten it done in the win column. Some who have, like Bruce Snyder, found the allure to leave to be too strong. Others like Steve Mariucci appeared to be on the right track only to get a better offer and take off for greener pastures.

The hiring dilemma: choose the wrong guy and the losses will continue or, paradoxically, a successful coach may use the Cal job as a stepping stone to what's perceived to be a more prestigious position.

But the future of Cal football doesn't have to be so gloomy. You have all the ingredients for success: a large population base, a culturally diverse campus, academics, the ability to get athletes in (much easier to nearby rival, Stanford), the top conference in the West and a history of putting talent into the NFL.

It's going to take the right person chosen for the job; fortunately, there isn't a shortage of viable candidates.

Here, then, with a rating from 1 to 10 ("1" being no chance to "10" being the sure thing) is our insight on who are strong candidates to be the next head man walking the sidelines in Memorial stadium:

Bruce Snyder (9)
It was Snyer who was the last consistently successful head coach in Berkeley, taking Cal to its only 10 win season since 1949 when the Bears won the ‘92 Citrus Bowl 37-13 over Clemson and finished 10-2. He had the ball rolling, but bolted to ASU because his desire for upgrading facilities wasn't met. Ousted at ASU, he's now a broadcaster for Pacific West Radio; however, there have been steps taken to put the machinery in place to have him come in next year. The intriguing thing will be to see how Snyder can use his pipelines and connections to get top players to head to the Bay Area. Remember, when he left for ASU he took a lot of talent with him. Plus, he had a lot of talented coaches helping him in Tempe including the suddenly hot Phil Snow, credited with turning the UCLA defense around this year. Would the "Old Blues" embrace the man who led them to glory 10 years ago or welcome his return with boos as they did each time he returned to Berkeley as the ASU head coach? We may soon find out as this might already be a done deal.

Dick Tomey (7)
The former Arizona head coach is openly lobbying for the job and like Snyder is now in the broadcast booth. Tomey had the Desert Swarm defense the buzz (couldn't resist) of the football world not too long ago. If he could resurrect Cal's strong (except for this season) defensive tradition, then perhaps the Bears wouldn't be as far off from a winning season as they appear to be right now.

Ron Rivera (7)
A former All-American linebacker at Cal in 1983 wants this job bad. He has pro playing experience (Chicago Bears) and is currently the linebacker coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. Plus, Rivera is a minority who could have a strong pull to African-American prospects, especially relevant in the East Bay area which is loaded with talent. His NFL time would also be attractive to prospects who want to follow in the paths of Cal greats like Andre Carter, Deltha O'Neal, Tony Gonzalez, Tarik Glenn, Duane Clemons, John Welbourn, Regan Upshaw and Todd Steussie—Bear grads who in the last 10 years have found success at the next level.

Al Borges (6)
Borges allegedly left the offensive coordinator job at UCLA to take a lateral job at Cal with the strong possibility that he could be the next head man. The best scenario for him would've been a 5-6 year with the offensive putting up 30 points a game. That way Holmoe could have stepped down gracefully with Borges looking impressive with a strong offense. However, QB Kyle Boller has struggled and no receivers had stepped up after the season-ending injury of Geoff McArthur and the Bears offense has had games of 17, 17, 20, 28 and 7 in the first five losses.

Ron Hudson (6)
A former coach at Cal from 1972 to 1976, he's currently the offensive coordinator at Kansas State and the Wildcats' recent success will make him a strong candidate for some program. More specifically, it's traditionally been hard to get talent to KSU and the fact Bill Snyder's staff has been able to evaluate, recruit and make it happen demonstrates that in a big metropolitan like the Bay Area, with an excellent academic reputation, Hudson maybe capable of similar work at Cal.

Rod Marinelli (5)
Coached at Cal under Bruce Snyder from ‘83 to ‘91, followed Snyder to ASU, then went to USC before taking his current stint as defensive line coach for the Tampa Bay Bucs, where he's been a vital cog in one of the NFL's best defenses in recent history. He's a Barry Alvarez type—stocky, balding, but an excellent evaluator and recruiter—who would be interested in taking the head spot. He's so highly thought of, new NY Jets coach Herman Edwards, himself a Cal grad, wanted to bring him to the Big Apple, but it wasn't allowed by the NFL as it appeared to be a lateral move. Marinelli would be excellent if the decision-makers had the guts to go after someone who's not a big name but has all the credentials for success.

Mike Johnson (4)
This is the sleeper that no one's talking about but maybe the best candidate to inject new energy and enthusiasm into the program. Not too many years ago, Johnson was coaching high school basketball at Baldwin Park High in the L.A. area. However, his Canadian football experience with Mike Riley got him a job at Oregon State and on the fast track to coaching respect and success. Young, personable and great with recruits, he's now with Riley as the receiver coach at San Diego. He's one of the most promising African-American head coaching candidates in football today and is from California, but again, will the Bears have the guts to go after a young, unproven coach even though he's got a very bright future?

Lyle Setencich (2)
A year or two ago when the Bear defense was dominating and keeping Cal at least competitive in the tough Pac-10, Setencich, if interested in the job, seemed like a strong possibility to assume the head job. Now, with the defense regressing and word out of Berkeley that he's not interested in returning even as the defensive coordinator if the new coach sought to retain him, Setencich isn't a realistic candidate. This could take an interesting turn if Holmoe resigns before the end of the season, because in all likelihood Setencich would be named the interim head man. However, he wasn't very successful as a head coach when he tried earlier at Boise State and doesn't seem to be too interested in becoming a head coach again.

Bob Ladouceur (1)
This is really not in the realm of possibilities, as the De La Salle head coach has said many times he's not interested in a college coaching job, but if he doesn't at least get a courtesy phone call from the Cal athletic department, somebody's head should roll. Although the "Jerry Faust at Notre Dame" stigma will likely prevent another jump from high school to college, if there is one coach who could do it - if he wanted to, it's Ladouceur. An incredible coach and teacher, he has the best winning percentage in high school history, with a 95 percent winning record of 253-14-1. He's in the Bay Area, has had players go to Cal (including current Spartan assistant, Nate Gelderman) and is in the truest since of the word a "molder of men."

Jon Gruden (1)
With AD Steve Gladstone talking about throwing a huge amount of money at a big-name candidate, this maybe his first target. Gruden is one of the lowest-paid NFL head coaches and has had his differences with Raiders management. He would be tremendous recruiting and dealing with the college age players. The question is, would he leave the Oakland Raiders for the California Golden Bears? Not so likely, especially if Notre Dame fires Bob Davie at the conclusion of the year - Gruden has said that the Notre Dame coaching job is his "dream job."

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