Boise State coaching search: Will a former Bronco return or will school break new ground?

Boise State is searching for a new head football coach for the second time since 2020.

Former Boise State linebacker Andy Avalos was fired on Sunday after almost three seasons on the job. He went 22-14.

Boise State Athletic Director Jeramiah Dickey let fans know the search officially began Tuesday with a tweet featuring Heath Ledger’s Joker character and a short message: “And so it begins.” Dickey confirmed on Wednesday that Boise State has hired a search firm, CSA, to assist the university.

Here’s a look at the coaches who might wind up on Dickey’s short list. Two potential candidates live right here in the Treasure Valley.

Spencer Danielson — Danielson has served as the Broncos’ interim head coach during their past two coaching changes. The 35-year-old has been on staff at Boise State since 2017. He was named defensive coordinator in January 2021. He’s a talented recruiter, and many of the players are behind him.

There are sure to be candidates with more experience, but hiring Danielson could come with the benefit of not breaking the bank. Boise State likely could get Danielson with the same $1.5 million salary Avalos was making this year, and there’s a good chance most of Avalos’ staff would stay, especially after many of them signed multiyear deals the past couple of years.

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The good news for fans is it doesn’t sound as if money is an issue in this search. Dickey said Monday that he wasn’t at all concerned about Avalos’ $3.4 million buyout, and it wouldn’t affect how much Boise State can offer the new coach.

Bryan Harsin — The former Boise State coach’s tenure at Auburn was short-lived. He was fired last November after going 9-12 in less than two seasons on the job. The 47-year-old has since moved back to the Treasure Valley, where his son, Davis — an Idaho State commit — played quarterback at Eagle High School.

Harsin has an 85-36 as a head coach at Arkansas State, Boise State and Auburn. He was Boise State’s offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2010 under former head coach Chris Petersen, and Harsin spent two years as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Texas.

In his first season, Harsin led the program to a win in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl. Boise State hasn’t played in a New Year’s Six bowl game since then. He went 69-19 at Boise State and led the Broncos to three Mountain West championships (2014, 2017, 2019).

The former Boise State quarterback’s tenure at his alma mater didn’t end on a high note, though. He fought with the administration and didn’t win over too many fans with his rant about “Twitiots” in 2019.

His main gripe with the administration was about what he termed a lack of funding and support. That has not been an issue since Dickey arrived in 2021. Boise State has received more than 10 donations of at least $1 million since he was hired.

The renovation of the north end of Albertsons Stadium is underway, and facilities are being upgraded all across campus. Boise State Athletics also recently announced a $150 million fundraising goal as part of the university’s $500 million “Unbridled” campaign.

One might wonder how quickly Harsin could return Boise State to its former glory with the proper financial backing. There also is a question of whether Harsin would try to find another job in a Power Five conference — if a school would be willing to take that leap again — or whether a school like San Diego State might come calling after coach Brady Hoke announced this week that he’s retiring at the end of the season.

Besides Danielson and Harsin, the extensive Boise State coaching tree should provide Dickey with plenty of other options, if he decides to stay in the family.

Jimmy Lake — Lake, 46, coached defensive backs at Boise State in 2012 and ‘13. He spent two seasons as the head coach at Washington before he was fired in November 2021. Lake is doing pretty well for himself these days as assistant head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, but maybe he’d be interested in running a college program again.

It’s a long shot, but Boise State loves to hire from within the family. Harsin and Avalos played and coached at Boise State, and Petersen was the offensive coordinator before he was promoted.

Jeff Choate — Choate, 53, was a candidate for the job when Avalos was hired. He didn’t play at Boise State, but he coached the Broncos’ running backs, linebackers and special teams between 2006 and 2011. He was the head coach at Montana State from 2016 to 2020, and he’s the co-defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach at Texas. His record at Montana State wasn’t great (28-22), but several Boise State players have been speaking out on social media in support of Choate as the best man for the job.

Ryan Dinwiddie — Dinwiddie, 42, was a three-year starter at quarterback for Boise State (2001-03). In 2003, he threw for 4,356 yards, which still stands as the single-season record for the Broncos. The 532 yards he put up against Louisiana Tech that year are also still a program record for a single game. Dinwiddie ranks No. 3 in program history with 9,819 career passing yards and No. 3 with 82 career touchdown passes.

He played in the Canadian Football League from 2004 to 2011, and he’s coached in the CFL since 2013. He’s been the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts since 2020, and he led the team to the Grey Cup title in 2022. He signed a multiyear extension with the Argonauts in July.

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There are some long shots worth mentioning for the job, too.

Kellen Moore — Moore’s name will be brought up anytime there’s a vacancy at Boise State from now until the end of time. But let’s be clear — this is a really long shot. After four years as offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Moore is in his first season of running the Los Angeles Chargers offense.

Things haven’t gone to plan this year for the team, which is tied for last place in the AFC West, and there have been rumblings that head coach Brandon Staley’s job may be in jeopardy. If he gets fired and the Chargers clean house, then maybe Moore takes a look at his alma mater. But that wouldn’t work with Dickey’s timeline. Remember, he said he wants a new coach in place by early December.

Moore went 50-3 as Boise State’s starting quarterback from 2008 to 2011. He still holds program records for career touchdown passes (142), passing yards (14,667), completions (1,157) and attempts (1,658). He was a candidate for the Boise State job before Avalos was hired but reportedly took his name out of the running early in the process.

Tom Herman — Herman, in his first season as the head coach at Florida Atlantic, is seen as one of the brightest offensive minds in college football. The 48-year-old has been a head coach at Houston and Texas. Dickey was an associate athletic director at Houston when Herman was hired there in 2015. The Cougars went 13-1 in his first season.

Herman signed a five-year contract at FAU earlier this year. His base salary is $750,000 and it increases to $1 million next year, so Boise State wouldn’t have to go big to pay him. A contract similar to Avalos’ would probably do it. The problem is Herman would owe FAU $2.5 million if he takes another job before December 2025, and Boise State likely would have to pick up at least some of that tab.

Gary Patterson — Patterson, 63, took this year off after he spent last season as a special assistant to Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian, but he said last week that he’s ready to get back on the sideline. Patterson went 181-79 as the head coach at TCU from 2000 to 2021. He led the Horned Frogs to a Rose Bowl title in 2011 to cap an undefeated 2010 season, and had the team in the running for a New Year’s Six bowl in 2014. TCU failed to reach a bowl just three times during his tenure.

Patterson faced Boise State four times in his TCU tenure, going 2-2. The teams famously met in the Fiesta Bowl in 2010, with the Broncos winning a battle of unbeaten teams by a 17-10 score.