LOS ANGELES--John Baxter, a member of the Fresno State coaching staff for the past 13 seasons, has been named associate head coach and special teams coordinator at USC, new Trojan head coach Lane Kiffin announced today (March 4).
"Hiring John Baxter is something that I thought could probably never happen, so this is a great day for USC," said Kiffin. "Having him here will be huge for our team on and off the field. He put together a 13-year run of special teams at Fresno State that were better than any in the country. We're very excited to welcome him to the Trojan Family."
In his 13 years (1997-2009) at Fresno State, he was the associate head coach and special teams coach in addition to handling either the tight ends (1997-2001, 2003, 2009) or wide receivers (2002, 2004-2008).
Baxter turned the Bulldogs' special teams into one of the top units in the nation annually. During his time, Fresno State blocked 84 kicks and punts (including a national-best 49 from 2002 through 2009) and scored 39 special teams touchdowns (with 3 safeties). The Bulldogs topped the nation in fewest punt return yards allowed in 2004 and 2005. A.J. Jefferson led the nation in kickoff returns in 2007. Clifton Smith's 189 punt return yards with 2 touchdowns against Weber State in 2005 were Fresno State game records, while his 5 career scoring punt returns also was a school mark. Six of Baxter's Bulldog kickers and punters earned All-Western Athletic Conference first team honors.
During his time at Fresno State, the Bulldogs posted a 100-66 record, played in 10 bowls (1999 Las Vegas, 2000-01-02-03 Silicon Valley, 2004 MPC Computers, 2005 AutoZone Liberty, 2007 Roady's Humanitarian and 2008-09 New Mexico) and won the WAC title in 1999.
Along with his coaching duties at Fresno State, Baxter developed the highly-successful and nationally-regarded program, "Academic Gameplan." His innovative and comprehensive study-skills program teaches students the rules, fundamentals, techniques and life skills needed to succeed in the classroom. "Academic Gameplan," which is now being used at schools throughout the country, was a key reason for the academic success of the Fresno State football program, which during Baxter's tenure produced 141 Academic All-WAC players and an NCAA APR score nearly 20 percentage points higher than the national average.
He was selected as the Clovis Co-Citizen of the Year in 2006, along with Fresno State head coach Pat Hill.
Baxter, 46, has 29 years of coaching experience. He began his coaching career at his alma mater, Loras College, where he served for 5 seasons (1981-85). He then moved on to Iowa State for 2 seasons (1986-87) before the first of 2 stints at Arizona. He was with the Wildcats in 1988, went to Maine in 1989 when the Black Bears made it to the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs and returned to Arizona in 1990 and 1991 (the Wildcats played in the 1990 Aloha Bowl). He then was at Maryland for 2 seasons (1992-93) and Tulane for 3 years (1994-96) before going to Fresno State.
He earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from Loras in 1985 and then his master's in higher education from Iowa State in 1987.
He was born on June 28, 1963. He and his wife, Jill, have 2 daughters, Kelly and McKenzie. His father-in-law is current Weber State head coach Ron McBride, formerly the head coach at Utah.
*Discuss more on the SCPlaybook.com message boards