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Jeff Tedford, former Cal coach, hired as Fresno State’s new head coach

Tim DeRuyter was fired as the Bulldogs’ head coach last month.

Stanford v California Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Fresno State is hiring Jeff Tedford as its next head football coach, athletic director Jim Bartko confirmed Thursday afternoon.

Tedford replaces the fired Tim DeRuyter, whose dismissal in October immediately brought reports of Tedford’s involvement. Tedford was the head coach at Cal from 2002 to 2012. Fresno State had named offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau as the Bulldogs’ interim coach after DeRuyter’s firing.

Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman also confirmed this news on Wednesday evening, and added that the details are still being worked out, but things are expected to be completed later this week.

For the Bulldogs, Tedford is an interesting hire. His 10-year run in Berkeley soured at the end, but Tedford did a lot of good things there. The Bears appeared in top-25 rankings during six of Tedford’s first seven years and finished there in 2004, 2005, and 2006. He found a quarterback named Aaron Rodgers at a community college and almost made a Rose Bowl with him. He made Cal’s offense one of the country’s better ones for years.

According to KMJ’s Alexan Balekian, Tedford’s salary will be close to $1.6 million a year.

He’s got Fresno State history, too. Tedford served as Fresno State’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator between 1992 and 1997. He spent 1998 through 2001 as the offensive coordinator at Oregon before getting the head job at Cal.

Tedford coached a handful of NFL quarterbacks who’ve gone on to less success than Rodgers: Trent Dilfer and David Carr at Fresno State, Akili Smith and Joey Harrington at Oregon, and then Kyle Boller and Rodgers at Cal.

Tedford has spent this season working as a consultant for Chris Petersen’s Washington program, where he describes his role: “I’m just here as a resource. I can’t coach players or anything like that. But if I can offer some resources to the coaches with game-planning or watching tape or whatever, I’m here to do anything to help them.”

In a funny coincidence (or maybe not a coincidence at all), when Washington played Cal on Nov. 5, the Huskies hit the Bears with a double-pass touchdown that closely mimicked the one Cal scored on Tedford’s first play as its coach, back in 2002.

After Cal fired Tedford and replaced him with Sonny Dykes in 2012, he resurfaced as the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014. He coached the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League in 2015 before getting to Seattle this year.

Tedford and Fresno State seem like a good match.

For one thing, Tedford is experienced but not fossilized. He’s 55, so he won’t start out by recruiting players who might wonder how many years he’s got left in the tank. He has more than a decade of head coaching experience, so the executive nature of running a program won’t be new to him. He might even find that it’s easier to do in the Mountain West than it was in the Pac-10.

For another, he’s got that Fresno State tie, which doesn’t hurt. All college football programs, but especially the ones outside the power conferences, need to rouse their donors and ticket-buyers. Hiring a former Fresno hand who’s since gone on to bigger and better things should not be a hard sell in that regard.

Thirdly, and maybe the most important — Tedford is used to recruiting the West Coast. Almost the entirety of Fresno State’s roster is from California, and the Golden State will keep making up the bulk of the Bulldogs’ recruiting footprint. The same is true of Cal, where Tedford led before, and it’s true to a lesser extent at Oregon, where he was a top assistant.

Expectations need to be reasonable, however.

There isn’t any good reason Tedford can’t have Fresno competing for MWC titles sometime in the next five years. The Bulldogs did that in 2013, just their second season after coming aboard from the now-defunct football WAC.

But the Bulldogs, obviously, have fallen on hard times. DeRuyter went a combined 20-6 in 2012 and 2013 but fell off a cliff the last three years.

Climbing back won’t just be an overnight thing, especially with most of Fresno’s top tacklers on defense about to run out of eligibility. There’s some solace in an offense that’s mostly underclassmen, including freshman quarterback Chason Virgil and his top two targets, both sophomores. Fresno State should get better. It’ll just take a minute.

If Tedford has time, though – and it seems like he will – why shouldn’t this work out? There’s no clear reason it shouldn’t.