Kalen DeBoer coaching timeline: What to know about new Alabama coach’s meteoric rise from NAIA to SEC

When someone says America is a land of opportunity, new Alabama coach Kalen DeBoer might be one of the best examples.

DeBoer wasn’t the son of a professional athlete or coach. He wasn’t a Division I athlete, either. He was a kid from South Dakota who loved football. Now, he’s the head football coach at Alabama, tasked with replacing one of the greatest coaches in the sport’s history.

What took place in between included constant work, many stops and plenty of wins. As the pressure on DeBoer has increased, though, he has answered the call. 

Here’s a look at DeBoer’s coaching timeline, from Sioux Falls to Tuscaloosa. 

MORE: Why Alabama hired Kalen DeBoer to replace Nick Saban

Kalen DeBoer coaching timeline

1997: Sioux Falls (WR coach)

DeBoer spent four seasons as a wide receiver at NAIA Sioux Falls, and he was able to become the team’s wide receivers coach as a graduate student in 1997. 

1998-99: Washington High School (Assistant)

Once DeBoer’s time as a graduate assistant was up at Sioux Falls, he stayed local and became an assistant coach at Washington High School in the same city. Despite being from Sioux Falls, the school wasn’t DeBoer’s alma mater.

2000-04: Sioux Falls (OC)

DeBoer was brought back as Sioux Falls’ offensive coordinator in 2000, landing a position he would hold for five seasons. 

2005-09: Sioux Falls (HC)

The retirement of longtime Sioux Falls head coach Bob Young paved the way for DeBoer to secure his first head coaching opportunity at just 30 years old. 

Sioux Falls was utterly dominant during DeBoer’s tenure, going 67-3 with three NAIA championships. DeBoer was named NAIA Coach of the Year in 2006, 2008 and 2009, and he lost just one game over his final four seasons at the school.

The success at Sioux Falls at such a young age earned him a promotion in 2010.

BENDER: Will Alabama maintain elite status under Kalen DeBoer?

2010-13: Southern Illinois (OC)

DeBoer jumped all the way to the FCS level in 2010, becoming the offensive coordinator at Southern Illinois. He spent four years with the Salukis, with Southern Illinois failing to reach the FCS playoffs but posting winning seasons in 2012 and 2013. 

2014-16: Eastern Michigan (OC)

DeBoer made the jump to the FBS level in 2014, joining newly-hired coach Chris Creighton at a program that was coming off back-to-back 2-10 seasons. 

It took time to build up the Eagles, as Eastern Michigan went a combined 3-21 over DeBoer’s first two seasons as offensive coordinator under Creighton. A six-win improvement in 2016 boosted DeBoer’s profile. Eastern Michigan averaged 29.8 points per game in the 7-6 campaign, with QB Brogan Roback posting the best season of his career.

2017-18: Fresno State (OC)

The improvement at Eastern Michigan led DeBoer to Fresno State, where he was brought aboard as the offensive coordinator in 2017.

The rapid improvement was almost too massive to believe. The Bulldogs went from 1-11 in 2016 to 10-4 in 2017, with former California coach Jeff Tedford leading a gigantic turnaround. Fresno State went 12-2 in DeBoer’s second and final season as OC before sliding back to 4-8 in the first season after his departure. 

Given how much success the Bulldogs experienced during DeBoer’s two seasons as an assistant, it’s no surprise they turned back to him to fill their head coaching vacancy after the 2019 season.

2019: Indiana (OC)

DeBoer’s first Power Five opportunity came at Indiana, where he took the reins of the Hoosiers’ offense under Tom Allen. Indiana posted its best season in 26 years during DeBoer’s only year on the staff.

It was in Bloomington that DeBoer first got to work with QB Michael Penix Jr., who completed 68.8 percent of passes for 10 touchdowns and four interceptions before suffering a season-ending injury. The offense still found success with Peyton Ramsey at QB, and Indiana’s impressive average of 31.8 points per game helped earn DeBoer his first FBS head coaching gig.

MORE: Why Kalen DeBoer was Sporting News’ Coach of the Year

2020-21: Fresno State (HC)

DeBoer didn’t get much of an opportunity to find his footing in year one as Fresno State’s head coach, as the COVID-19 pandemic slashed the Bulldogs’ season to six games. He went 3-3 but would follow it up with a terrific 10-3 season in 2021.

Under DeBoer, QB Jake Haener shined with 4,096 yards, 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2021. Fresno State averaged 33.4 points per game, ranking 26th out of all FBS schools.

2022-23: Washington (HC)

Washington joined a busy coaching cycle on the early end, firing coach Jimmy Lake amid a disappointing 4-8 season that culminated in a physical altercation involving Lake during a game. At a time when the Huskies risked losing their status as one of the west coast’s prominent programs, a reputation earned back during the Chris Petersen era, they made a critical hire in DeBoer. 

The rest is history, as Washington went 25-3 in DeBoer’s two seasons, reaching the national championship game this past season behind a dominant season by Penix. 

While the Huskies certainly didn’t envision DeBoer’s tenure ending so soon, his success got the attention of an Alabama program that enters each season with championship expectations.

2024-present: Alabama (HC)

Alabama didn’t necessarily go all-in on a brand name, someone with ties to the school or even a coach with a close connection to the south after Saban retired. Instead, the Crimson Tide went for a coach who just wins. 

DeBoer will be under serious pressure from day one in Tuscaloosa, with 10-win seasons simply not enough, but he will have the necessary resources at Alabama and has already proven he can adapt regardless of where’s coaching.

Kalen DeBoer coaching record

DeBoer has a career coaching record of 104-12. He is 37-9 at the FBS level, between Fresno State and Washington.

School Record Years
Sioux Falls (NAIA) 67-3 2005-09
Fresno State 12-6 2020-21
Washington 25-3 2022-23

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