Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Kalen DeBoer’s journey from Washington’s championship stint to Alabama’s sidelines

CW / Jennifer Stroud
Alabama football head coach Kalen DeBoer watches A-Day from the field.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to fix an error regarding a team for which DeBoer was said to have played football in college.

Just two days after the College Football Playoff national championship game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban announced his retirement after 17 seasons in Tuscaloosa. It took only minutes for speculation to begin about who would be the next head coach.

After three days, the rumors and speculation died. On Jan. 13, The University of Alabama held a press conference naming Kalen DeBoer as the 28th head coach of The Crimson Tide.

DeBoer has quickly become one of the biggest names in college football after taking the Washington Huskies to the national championship a mere two years into his time with the school. But his football golden touch didn’t just start at Washington.

DeBoer was born and raised in South Dakota. He played wide receiver at the University of Sioux Falls from 1993 to 1996 and earned All-American honors. While serving as a student assistant his senior year, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. 

After one season with the semipro Sioux Falls Falcons, he went on to play two seasons for the Indoor Football League, later known as the National Indoor Football League. There, DeBoer helped lead Sioux Falls to a 7-7 record with a semifinal appearance. His playing career ended in 2001, shortly after that playoff run.

DeBoer got his first major coaching job when he rejoined his former head coach Bob Young and took the offensive coordinator position at Sioux Falls. He remained in the position from 2000-04.

After Young retired in 2004, DeBoer took the role as his successor. In just four years as head coach of the program, DeBoer led Sioux Falls to three Division II national championship victories. He had a 67-3 record when he departed to take the Southern Illinois offensive coordinator job in 2010, meaning he left with as many national championships as losses. 

After his time with the Salukis, DeBoer took the same position at Eastern Michigan in 2014. His stint with EMU ended in 2017 after he took the offensive coordinator role at Fresno State, where he first met future Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Shortly after he took the same OC position with Indiana University.

According to ESPN, Indiana finished the 2019 season ranking top five in the Big 10 for scoring offense, total offense and passing.

DeBoer was the assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Indiana. (Courtesy of Indiana Football)

Following that season at Indiana, DeBoer returned to Fresno as head coach. In one season, he led the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record and a win in the New Mexico Bowl over the UTEP Miners.

In 2021 Deboer was hired as Washington’s head coach. He landed Penix out of the transfer portal, reuniting him with his former quarterback at Indiana. 

It was a breakout year for DeBoer and his players, as he led the team to an 11-2 record with ranked wins against No. 11 Michigan State and No. 6 Oregon and capped the season off with an Alamo Bowl win against No. 21 Texas. DeBoer was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year and earned the Huskies a No. 10 ranking going into the 2023 season.

Washington continued its success, finishing with a 14-1 record after beating Texas 37-31 in the CFP semifinals but ultimately falling to Michigan in the championship.

When DeBoer was announced as the next head coach of the Crimson Tide after his playoff stint, he immediately began assembling his staff. He hired Nick Sheridan as offensive coordinator and Kane Wommack as defensive coordinator.

Sheridan followed DeBoer from Washington, where he held the title of tight end coach. Sheridan previously played quarterback for the University of Michigan and held quarterback coaching jobs before being hired at Indiana in 2017. There he spent five years, three as quarterback coach and two as offensive coordinator.

Wommack played fullback in college at Arkansas and Southern Miss. He started his coaching career in an offensive role before taking graduate assistant positions, helping coach defensive backs and defensive linemen. Soon after, he began taking defensive coordinator roles, most recently at Indiana in 2019 with DeBoer before taking the head coaching job at South Alabama in 2021. 

DeBoer hoists the Sugar Bowl trophy after leading Washington past Texas en route to the 2024 National Championship game. (Courtesy of Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

In the midst of Saban retiring and DeBoer getting hired, some players decommitted or entered the transfer portal before even considering DeBoer’s capabilities. 

Offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor was one of the players who left. Proctor entered the transfer portal and committed to Iowa, but he transferred back to Alabama in the spring transfer window.

Proctor told Bama247 that his decision to leave was “probably one of the worst decisions that I’ve made in my life.” He also apologized to DeBoer, saying, “I’m sorry for not hearing y’all out.” 

After Saban’s retirement, Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne told the Crimson Tide players to give him 72 hours to find a replacement. It only took 49. 

In DeBoer’s introductory press conference, Byrne sung the new coach’s praises. 

“Coach DeBoer has proven he’s a winner and has done an incredible job as a head coach at each of his stops,” Byrne said.

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