Fresno State Bulldogs · Sports

Family at center of DeBoer’s decision to return to Fresno

When Kalen DeBoer was introduced as Fresno State’s next head football coach Tuesday, he made one thing very clear: He wouldn’t be here without his family. 

“There are a few people that I want to thank before I get in to talking about our football program here at Fresno State,” DeBoer said. “First and foremost, my wife Nicole and my two daughters Alexis and Avery. We absolutely loved our time in the Valley from 2017-18. I have some softball girls and they get a lot of time outside here in this beautiful California weather. 

“They are fired up to get out here. My wife is an amazing coach’s wife. She understands my passion and my purpose to serving our men that get to wear the Bulldog uniform each week. She understands how important it is and she is so supportive. They are the reason why I am here.” 

After spending two seasons in Fresno as the offensive coordinator, Indiana came calling in January 2019, which left DeBoer with one of the toughest decisions he’d ever have to make: Stay in Fresno – a place he and his family loved – or move up the coaching ladder to take the same job at a Big 10 school. 

He chose to take the leap and head to Indiana, where he was an integral reason why the Hoosiers won eight games and are going for their ninth win in the Gator Bowl. 

“When I left here, it was probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my coaching career,” DeBoer said “I get emotional thinking about that. I was torn on what to do because I know what this place is all about and what it represents.” 

And now, just 11 months after he left, the door opened up for his return to take over for Jeff Tedford. 

As much as this move made sense for DeBoer, he still faced the prospect of uprooting his family for the second time this year. When he arrived in Bloomington, Indiana, at the beginning of the year, he thought he would be there for several years. 

But then Tedford stepped down a couple weeks ago, and DeBoer knew that Fresno was the one place that could pull him away from Indiana. 

“I think if it had been any other place, it would’ve been really hard,” DeBoer said. “I kind of had that in my mind when we left to go to Indiana that we needed to stay there, because you’re moving your kids around. And after some time – as great as they are socially and being able to adapt – I really wanted to stay in one place for quite a while.” 

“Then this opportunity opens up at Fresno State. It was too good of an opportunity to not be a part of and come back to and coach here.” 

DeBoer steps into a comfortable situation. He’s won a championship here before, and he intends to build on the foundation – the culture and traditions – that Tedford started. 

Over the last season in his time away from Tedford and the Bulldogs, he gained more confidence in himself that he could step into the right situation and lead a Division 1 football program. 

“I think there’s just another level of confidence that I have as far as what it takes to bring a football team together, seeing it done another way,” DeBoer said. “And that’s happened now four different occasions since I was a head football coach at the University at Sioux Falls. You take all of those things that you learned from all the stops, and you kind of make it your own. And you add to the style and the foundation that Jeff laid here at Fresno State. It’s exciting. I’m ready for the challenge, looking forward to this opportunity.”

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.