Brent Brennan fell short of landing the Arizona Wildcats football head coach role in 2020-2021 as it went to Jedd Fisch. With Fisch off to lead the Washington Huskies, the Wildcats are rolling with the man from their short list of candidates four years ago.
While Brennan now gets to build his coaching staff, the next question proposed in the Silicon Valley is who succeeds Brennan at the San Jose State Spartans? Many believe the Spartans don’t need to look far for their replacement.
San Jose State Head Coach Candidates
The San Jose State head coach accepted Arizona’s offer on Tuesday, ending a nearly 72-hour period the Wildcats were without a coaching leader. For Brennan, this is his second time in Tucson, as he started his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the ‘Cats in 2000.
Before diving into who could take the head coaching reins bequeathed by Brennan, let’s look at what the next guy is walking into.
Brennan overcame early 11-loss seasons in his first two years to eventually turn the Spartans into a perennial bowl contender. Brennan produced three bowl teams through his seven seasons in the 408 region. That includes the 2020 Mountain West Conference winning team that played in the Arizona Bowl and ended up 7-1.
Through Brennan’s coaching and leadership, SJSU witnessed new facility upgrades at CEFCU Stadium.
One that came into fruition was the $70 million Spartan Athletics Center that replaced the East stands. The 55,000-square-foot project created new locker rooms, meeting rooms, plus a sports medicine center.
On the field, Brennan got the Spartans to earn significant victories over MWC teams that had often had San Jose State’s number. He coached SJSU to the rout of Boise State to win the ’20 MWC title.
This past season, his Spartans trounced the Central Valley of California rival Fresno State Bulldogs in the “Valley Game” 42-18. Lastly, his 2023 Spartans went from 1-5 to 7-6 overall — winning their final six regular season games.
Now, who fits the task of taking over for Brennan? Many around the Spartans believe there’s already a coach in place. Nonetheless, a complete list of potential candidates is below.
Alonzo Carter (Current Job: San Jose State RB Coach)
Alonzo Carter ascends to the early favorite to take over for Brennan. This move makes a ton of sense, especially for fans who have followed the Spartans or Carter’s career.
For the former, Carter was the main guy putting together SJSU’s recruiting classes with their “Shield the Bay” motto. Carter managed to lure in talented local prospects who starred at Bay Area powerhouses like De La Salle, McClymonds in Oakland, or El Cerrito.
One of his prized local finds? Antioch native Kairee Robinson, who scored 18 rushing touchdowns this past season.
But here’s the primary reason Carter treks to the top of the list: He’s been an immensely successful head coach in the Bay Area before.
He produced CIF section title championships at McClymonds, later turning Contra Costa College into a junior college bowl contender. Under Carter, the Comets’ roster boasted a future NFL Draft first-rounder named Takkarist McKinley.
Carter has extensive head coaching experience, and unless Brennan takes him to the desert, “Zo” is the prime internal promotion for SJSU.
Brent Vigen (Current Job: Montana State HC)
Reports are that San Jose State would be open to current head coaches for this position. One name worth watching is Brent Vigen.
He’s gone 32-9 with the Bobcats. But, before anyone thinks he would make a huge jump from the Big Sky to the MWC, he is familiar with the latter.
After all, Vigen was at Wyoming from 2014 to 2020 alongside Craig Bohl, serving in roles like quarterback coach and offensive coordinator. Plus, he’s been credited for helping lure in a young, lightly-recruited quarterback named Josh Allen.
Brennan Marion (Current Job: UNLV Offensive Coordinator)
Now we get into the outside-the-box hires. Brennan Marion has been touted as a future FBS head coach, already receiving significant attention in the 2024 college football coaching cycle.
Marion just turned the UNLV Rebels into an offensive superpower — emerging as the best unit in the MWC in scoring offense (averaging 34.4 points per game). He’s also coached All-American and future first-rounder Jordan Addison while helping produce 2024 NFL Draft entry Xavier Worthy when Marion was pass game coordinator at the Texas Longhorns.
Marion has no past connection to San Jose State.
However, the UNLV OC has plenty of Bay Area ties. He began his early coaching days as Harker High head coach in San Jose. He also played his junior college football at nearby DeAnza College. If Brennan takes most of his staff to Arizona, consider Marion high up the list of San Jose State possibilities.
Nick Rolovich (Current Job: None)
Nick Rolovich becomes the first past FBS head coach mentioned to this opening. There are plenty of reasons he’s named here as a potential head coach. He knows the MWC, having gone 28-27 with the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. The former Hawaii head coach produced a 10-5 Rainbow Warriors team in his final season on the island in 2019.
Importantly, Rolovich has ties to the Bay Area. He’s a Daly City native who played quarterback at City College of San Francisco. Plus, he most recently helped coach his son’s team at San Marin High following his highly-publicized dismissal from the Washington State Cougars. As a result, there’d be no expensive buyout from an existing college football coach contract.
Ken Niumatalolo (Current Job: UCLA TEs Coach)
Another former FBS head coach rounds out the list of replacements for Brennan at San Jose State.
Ken Niumatalolo recently got elevated to tight end coach with the UCLA Bruins. Still, the former Navy Midshipmen leader gives San Jose State another experienced head coach if he wants to return to that role. He left Annapolis with an impressive 109-83 mark.
However, his final three Midshipmen teams never won more than four games. He’s another with no past tie-in to SJSU. Plus, the allure of coaching in the Big Ten as UCLA transitions to the conference could sway him away from taking a dip back into the head coaching realm.
San Jose State would have more lax academic standards than what he dealt with at the Naval Academy, giving the former Midshipmen head coach more recruiting freedom than he’s used to — especially in a talent-rich area like Pasadena. The Spartans could be an intriguing option if the school wants someone with a winning HC resume and from a place that preaches academics.
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