Finding Chris Ault’s replacement
Special to the Tribune
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . . The University of Nevada will hire a great coach as its next head football coach. That’s not even a concern. There is no shortage of qualified, competent, outstanding candidates. But there is one very interesting question that will be answered once the new coach arrives. Will he have any ties to Chris Ault? We will find out with this hire exactly just how much the university values what Ault did the past three decades and how much the university wants to continue that tradition. This could be the chance the university has been waiting for to cut itself off completely from Ault and his memory. Stay tuned.
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Here’s hoping that Ken Wilson gets a serious look as the next head coach. Wilson has been a valuable Ault assistant for two-plus decades. He has been as loyal to the university as Ault during his career. He knows Wolf Pack football as well as anyone. He’d be a great presence in the community. He’s paid his dues. Nobody deserves the job more than Wilson.
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The Wolf Pack is fortunate in that it has a handful of assistant coaches on its staff that could slip into Ault’s head coaching office very easily. In addition to Wilson, there is wide receivers coach Scott Baumgartner, who has spent nine years at Nevada. Defensive coordinator Mike Bradeson has also been at Nevada nine years. Wilson, Baumgartner and Bradeson also deserve to be taken seriously for the job. Continuity, tradition and loyalty is important in college football. And you can’t fake it. The Pack has a ton of continuity, tradition and loyalty still sitting at Cashell Fieldhouse. If they want it.
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It is also extremely important that the pistol offense be taken care of at Nevada. Pistol creators Jim Mastro, now at Washington State, and Chris Klenakis, who spent the last three years at Arkansas, deserve serious looks for either the head coaching job or the vacant offensive coordinator’s job. If the university truly wants Ault to be a continuing part of Wolf Pack football, it will hire someone Ault can call up in the middle of the night simply to talk pistol football. The pistol always needs tweaking and if the new head coach and offensive coordinator are merely working on their undergraduate pistol degrees and not already a tenured pistol professor like Klenakis, Mastro, Baumgartner and even Wilson and Bradeson, who went up against it in practice every day, that might be a mistake in the long run.
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Cleveland Browns tight ends coach Steve Hagen, a quarterbacks coach at Nevada in 1992 and 1993, has spent about a dozen years in the NFL. Former Pack defensive back and assistant coach (1995-98) Clayton Lopez, now with the Oakland Raiders, has 13 years of NFL experience. San Diego Chargers defensive line coach Don Johnson, a Pack assistant from 1995-99, has also coached at UCLA and has eight years in the NFL. New Orleans Saints secondary coach Ken Flajole, at Nevada in 1996 and 1997 as defensive coordinator, has spent 14 years in the NFL. Chris White, a former Bishop Manogue High head coach (1994-96), now in his fourth years with the Minnesota Vikings as a special teams coach, spent nine years at Syracuse and would be an interesting choice. There are tons of outstanding candidates for the Pack’s top job. The university really could not go wrong here even if they tried.
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What is Chris Ault going to do now? Don’t be too shocked to see him coaching somewhere else as soon as this spring. There are a ton of NFL jobs open right now. The hottest offense in the league as you read this is the pistol. Who better to teach it than the guy who created it? Yes, Ault is 66-years-old. And, yes, he doesn’t have any NFL experience. But that doesn’t mean anything anymore. The NFL is changing. Coaches bounce back and forth between the NFL and college football now every year. Ault, at the very least, would be an incredible offensive coordinator in the NFL. But a BCS school who wants to turn its program around right away would also be silly to overlook Ault. If Ault wants to coach again, he will. he can coach another 10 years easy. Or he might just tour the country, teaching the pistol to coaches all over the nation as the pied piper of the pistol. Chris Ault is not going to retire to some golf course or sit in front of some 60-inch high definition TV, you can count on that.
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The saddest part of Ault’s retirement party last Friday is that he is leaving without much fanfare. His last two seasons as head coach were huge disappointments. Both teams got worse and worse as the year went along. It kind of felt that both teams stopped listening to him a little. He certainly didn’t have the same affect (on his players and assistants) he once did. But that happens to every coach at some point. Ault should have left the Wolf Pack after 2010. That was the time to go out. It was the perfect, storybook ending that all coaches dream about. And he let it get away.
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