Exclusive Interview With Tom Holmoe
Nov. 24, 2000
Berkeley, CA - On Friday (November 24), Cal Associate Athletic Director Kevin Reneau spent some time with Cal head coach Tom Holmoe and discussed the Cal football program. Below is a transcript of the interview.
IT'S BEEN A WEEK SINCE THE END OF A DISAPPOINTING, BUT IN SOME WAYS ENCOURAGING SEASON. HAS YOUR EVALUATION OF THE YEAR CHANGED SINCE YOUR IMMEDIATE POST-GAME REACTIONS?
Yes, it has. I was pretty emotional after the loss to Stanford in overtime. It was a game that all of us wanted very badly. I also was going through a time in which I was reflecting about the future of the program and what role I should play in that future. Now that a little time has passed, it's offered me an opportunity to look at things more objectively. I honestly feel good about the direction we're going.
If you look at this past season, it was encouraging to see how we played over the last six games. We had a couple good wins and we played three Top 10 national teams right down to the wire in the fourth quarter. I'm not sure a lot of people thought we'd be in that position after the way we looked in some earlier games. There was an opportunity for our team to go in the tank and that just didn't happen. I'm proud of the way our guys fought through that adversity and played good football down the stretch. I think the team grew up this year. Now, we need to show not just that we can compete with the best teams in the country, but beat them. That's where we are.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO TURN CLOSE LOSSES INTO VICTORIES? IS IT ONE PLAYER - SOMEONE LIKE JOE MONTANA OR A MARQUES TUIASOSOPO - OR IS IT MORE THAN THAT?
There's no magic. It takes improved play and it starts with coaches and it goes down to the development of every player on your football team, because you never know who will be asked to make a play that could be the difference between a win or a loss. A lot of it is confidence. I believe our team gained confidence by virtue of playing some of the best teams in the nation on an even basis. I think our team came to the conclusion in the last part of the season that we were a good football team. It's a feeling that we probably didn't have early in the season. I think it will carry over to next year and I think we have the opportunity to win those close games, because of what we went through this year.
OBVIOUSLY, YOU WERE NOT HAPPY WITH THE OVERALL DIRECTION OF THE CAL OFFENSE, LEADING YOU TO DISMISS STEVE HAGEN. WHAT SPECIFICALLY WERE SOME OF THE ISSUES YOU HAD OFFENSIVELY?
I just didn't feel we were making the type of progress that I had hoped to see. We did improve on offense this season, no question about it. But, there wasn't the type of consistency that a good offense needs to show. We would get the running game going for awhile and then it would be gone. The same with passing. I didn't get the sense that we had a real consistency in what we were trying to achieve.
THE CRITICS WILL SAY YOU'VE HIRED DOUG COSBIE AND STEVE HAGEN, WHO BOTH HAVE FAILED, AND WOULD QUESTION WHY ONE SHOULD EXPECT YOU TO DO BETTER WITH YOUR NEXT SELECTION. WHAT'S YOUR RESPONSE?
Every decision has different circumstances. With Doug, the main objective was to make a transition smoother during a time when we wanted some continuity. We wanted to hire somebody to continue the same system Steve (Mariucci) had put in place. I wanted to have some stability and continuity on the offensive side of the football. We did somewhat the same thing on defense with Lyle Setencich. He had some different wrinkles, but the personnel groups were similar. The main objective we had was to preserve some continuity with an offense that was one of the best in the conference.
The second time around, it was my view that we needed a change. I wanted us to be a little more wide open on offense than the West Coast offense. I felt that Steve (Hagen) was a young coach who could provide that and that we could grow with him. Things didn't' work out, for a lot of reasons.
The thing that one shouldn't forget is that both coordinators didn't have all the personnel they would have liked to make things successful. That's where the new coordinator will have a major advantage.
This time, I'm focused on hiring a coordinator with a track record, somebody who has the experience to take us to a new level.
HOW HAS THE SEARCH BEEN GOING SINCE YOU MADE THE ANNOUNCMENT ON TUEDAY?HAS THERE BEEN ANY SURPRISES? ANY CALLS FROM COACHES OR THEIR REPRESENTATIVES THAT HAVE BEEN UNEXPECTED?
I've been very encouraged by the response we've received. It would surprise a lot of people. However, you don't make major decisions like this without having a good idea of the direction you want to move and what the potential candidate list may look like. I already had a list of coaches who fit the profile we need at Cal, so the main thing was finding out whether there was interest on their part. The answer is yes. With bowl games, the timing is in question. However, I have great confidence that we'll have the right person in place who can make a big difference in our program.
HOW DO YOU THINK THE CHANGE OR CHANGES WILL IMPACT ON RECRUITING?
I believe that the change will be a positive factor in recruiting. We had a number of verbal commitments before we made the change, most of them on offense, and there hasn't been anybody reneging on their decisions to come to Cal. In the end, I think the change will have a positive impact on recruiting.
The other part is what impact the change will have on our current team. I believe that we have players now that our experienced enough, and have spent enough time together, that they'll be able to adapt to a new coach and a new system. We're not going to make any dramatic changes. It's not going to be a huge departure from what we're doing now. We're not brining in the Run and Shoot or the Wishbone. We going to have a balanced attack. There will be changes in philosophy and terminology, but our players will make the change without a major disruption.
21-22priorities - continue bolster Def. Line, acquie some cover secondarymost guys verbal on offense - nice candiddatesone more receiver
ALTHOUGH NCAA RULES PREVENT YOU FROM BEING SPECIFIC, HOW IS RECRUITING GOING?Very well. Right now we're at 14 commitments, counting one of our current players who we recruited last season with the idea of giving him a 2001 scholarship. We're well ahead of where we've been in past years and I anticipate we'll finish strongly. We looking at signing either 21 or 22 new players, so we don't have many scholarships left.
Our priorities right now with the remaining scholarships is to bolster our defensive line and find some good cover people in the secondary. We'll also try to land one more wide receiver and speed would probably be the key ingredient in that area.
BASED ON WHAT YOU'VE SEEN THIS SEASON, AND EXPECTED GRADUATION LOSSES AROUND THE LEAGUE, WHAT TEAMS WILL BE THE ONES TO BEAT IN THE PAC-10 AND WHERE DO YOU EXPECT CAL TO FIT IN?
When you consider that Oregon State will have their quarterback and tailback returning, that's a big piece of the puzzle. Washington is the Rose Bowl representative, so you have to respect their chances. But, they have to replace Marques Tuiasosopo and that's not going to be easy. We feel good that we're going to be a factor. But, talking about it and doing it are two different things. It's time for us to do something about it.
IF YOU WERE TO NAME THREE PLAYERS ON THE CAL TEAM YOU EXPECT TO MAKE THE BIGGEST IMPROVEMENT FROM THIS SEASON TO NEXT YEAR, WHO WOULD THEY BE?
The names who come immediately to mind are Mark Wilson, Atari Callen and Kyle Boller. That's a difficult question, because there are so many players who could emerge. However, you look at these players and they've all performed in games and show their abilities. If they continue to develop, they are capable of being big-time performers for us.
WHO AMONG THE GROUP OF REDSHIRTS THIS YEAR MAY CONTEND FOR STARTING STATUS NEXT FALL?
There are many who fit into that category. We've all been impressed with linebackerWendell Hunter. He's got a chance to be a really good one.
We have a couple of young defensive linemen who traveled with us and showed they are ready to make a contribution: Tosh Lupoi, LP Ladouceur . We're also high on Eli Thompson and Perron Wiley. All of those players will compete for significant playing time and possibly starting postions.
There are others who will also be in the hunt.
HOW WILL YOU FILL THE VOID CAUSED BY THE DEPARTURE OF CAL PUNTER NICK HARRIS?
We have a couple players in the program who will have an inside track in Tyler Fredrickson and Anthony Fasero. If Tyler can make the type of progress that he showed this season, then that's a very good sign. We'll also bring in at least one recruited walk-on to contend for that spot.
WHAT'S THE MOST ENJOYABLE PART OF YOUR JOB?
By far, it's the development of our players. And by that, I don't necessarily mean how good they get on the football field. The time they spend in college is really there formative years as people. It's gratifying to see a kid who is 17 when we recruit them develop into a young mature young man.
Cal is a great place, the type of place where they can be challenged. It's a place where kids can get the best education in the world and also grow as people. It's so much more than X's and O's. It's just a blessing for me to be around as our players grow into men
THE MOST DIFFICULT?In many ways, it's the same thing. Trying to carve out enough time to take care of all the players in your program is hard. But, it's also the thing that is most rewarding.
HOW OULD YOU GRADE THE JOB YOU'VE DONE AT CAL, MEANING THE WHOLE PROGRAM WHETHER IT BE RECRUITING, STAFF, SUPPORT AREAS, AS WELL AS WINS AND LOSSES?
I guess I would give it a C+. I think it's better than average, because I feel so good about the foundation we've built. It's strong. That's the most important thing. It's taken awhile to build it, but I think we have everything in place for success. The proof is in our players. They enjoy being in our program. They like being around their teammates and their coaches. They believe in what we're doing together. We have so much better depth than we've ever had before. It's a good position to be in.
However, there's also the bottom line. We don't have the results we all want. Until we get that, it's hard to make a grade that is better than average.
WHAT IS YOU LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE IN NEXT SEASON AND THE FUTURE OF CAL FOOTBALL?
It's higher than it's ever been before. Much of it has to do with the depth of our football team and the feeling among the players that we're going in the right direction. However, there's still that bottom line. We need to show all the progress we all feel in the win-loss column. I'm confident we'll do that next season.