Kalen DeBoer better like a challenge — and pressure — because he is about to get both as Alabama head coach.
ESPN reported on Friday that DeBoer had agreed to leave Washington for the Crimson Tide, replacing legendary coach Nick Saban, who announced his retirement Wednesday.
DeBoer spent the past two seasons at Washington, leading the Huskies to a 25-3 record and an appearance in this year’s College Football Playoff. After beating Texas in the CFP semifinal in the Sugar Bowl, Washington lost the national title game to Michigan.
He has only been a head coach at the FBS level for four years, compiling a combined 37-9 record at Fresno State and Washington. But that success, as well as Washington’s run to the national title game, has made him one of the rising stars in NCAA coaching ranks.
For DeBoer, it is an enormous risk. He is leaving what could be considered a relatively safe position with strong job security — at least as far as major college football coaches are concerned.
As popular as the Washington football program is, it’s in an area that’s often overshadowed by professional sports teams. Expectations are much lower there than they are in the SEC. DeBoer could win 10-11 games at Washington every season, occasionally win the Big Ten (it joins the conference this season), make the 12-team playoff field and be a local hero for years.
Alabama and the SEC are an entirely different type of beast. Following in the footsteps of one of the greatest college coaches of all time, at a school where national titles are expected, is a different zone all together.
In the SEC, and at schools like Alabama, you get pushed out the door or put on the hot seat if you lose two or three games and are not in constant competition for championships. As easy as Saban made that look, it’s more difficult than that, and only a few coaches can handle those kinds of expectations.
Can DeBoer do that? Will his brand of football translate to the SEC? And will he do enough to convince the players and recruits to stick around and give him a chance to prove himself before they decide to bail for other programs? Those are the big questions ahead.
Ultimately, big-time coaches are always striving to the best, and they want the most prominent jobs. There is no job in college football bigger than Alabama head football coach. If you win big, you become a legend. If you lose a few games, the school may quickly toss you aside.