Sac State’s Troy Taylor accepts Stanford Cardinal job offer

Sac State head coach Troy Taylor celebrates by holding up the Big Sky Conference trophy while surrounded by the Hornets after their win Saturday, Nov.  23, 2019, during the 66th Causeway Classic against UC Davis at Hornet Stadium.

Sac State head coach Troy Taylor celebrates by holding up the Big Sky Conference trophy while surrounded by the Hornets after their win Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, during the 66th Causeway Classic against UC Davis at Hornet Stadium.

jpierce@sacbee.com

Sacramento State football coach Troy Taylor has accepted an offer to become the next head coach at Stanford.

Taylor told The Sacramento Bee he is taking the job after three seasons with the Hornets. He was planning to inform his Sac State players Saturday morning before meeting with Cardinal players and personnel on the Stanford campus.

Taylor transformed the Sac State football program during his time with the Hornets. Now, he’s headed to the Pac-12 Conference to take on the challenge of rebuilding the Cardinal.

Stanford will hold a news conference on campus on Monday at 11 am to introduce Taylor. Sacramento State’s season ended Friday night in a wild 66-63 loss to Incarnate Word of San Antonio in the highest-scoring FCS playoff game in history.

Taylor has coached Sacramento State to its greatest heights since taking over a program in decline before the 2019 season, infusing a healthy and happy culture in which quarterbacks shared the role without issue and no current scholarship players having entered the transfer portal.

Taylor, a Cordova High School and Cal graduate, led the Hornets to three consecutive Big Sky Conference championships, a 30-8 overall record, an FCS national No. 2 ranking and a 12-0 showing entering Friday’s game. Along the way, Taylor was named Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year three times for his impact, including offensive schemes that led to school records and FCS national prominence.

Taylor told The Bee earlier this season he had “no intention of leaving here,” but added: “I don’t know what the future holds.”

The future for the football lifer known to doodle plays on any notepad he can find now includes his greatest project yet at Stanford. Taylor quickly emerged as a finalist for the Stanford job this week along with former Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and San Jose State coach Brent Brennan.

Next steps for Stanford

Taylor earned about $250,000 in base salary at Sacramento State with clauses in a rollover seven-year contract that could double that. No terms of Taylor’s contract at Stanford have been released, but should he earn $2 or $3 million annually, that significant boost would certainly add to the appeal of an already wildly intriguing job in leading the Cardinal.

David Shaw recently stepped down after 12 seasons as Stanford’s coach. Shaw won more games than any coach in program history, but the program was reeling after back-to-back three-win seasons. Known nationally for his offensive excellence as play caller and developer of quarterbacks, Taylor would surely infuse a new offensive attack. He’s done it before at the college level when he was the playcaller at Eastern Washington of the Big Sky and Utah of the Pac-12.

And any notion that Stanford would never resort to hiring a former Cal star for a coaching gig long ago went by the wayside. Stanford’s basketball coach, Jerod Haase, played for rival Cal in the early 1990s. It happened in football, too, with John Ralston coaching the Cardinal from 1963-71 after his playing days at Cal.

Taylor late Friday spoke glowingly about his time with the Hornets. He thanked athletic director Mark Orr and Sacramento State president Robert S. Nelsen for giving him his first collegiate head-coaching job. Taylor previously was head coach at Folsom High School, where he helped the Bulldogs win league, section and CIF State championships with some of the best teams in regional history.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those two guys,” Taylor said of Orr and Nelsen.

Taylor added about his mutual fondness for Sacramento in general, “Sacramento is my home. I always come back here. I go away, I come back. It’ll always be home for me.”

Said Orr on Friday, “Troy’s a great coach, a great person. He’ll win anywhere.” He added Saturday, “I am extremely appreciative of Coach Taylor’s time at Sacramento State. From our initial conversation, we aligned in a shared vision that Sacramento State could win Big Sky conference titles and contend for a national championship, and he was able to fulfill those expectations. The program is in better shape because of him, and we will continue to build upon the foundation that he has built. We wish Troy, (wife Tracey) and their family the best of luck at Stanford.”

Said Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir in a statement, “I am excited to welcome Troy and his family to Stanford. Troy is a proven winner who has experienced success at many levels of football. Throughout our visits together he demonstrated an understanding of what makes Stanford special, and a deep desire to capitalize on our unique strengths. He possesses an incredible football mind and has a long history of caring deeply for the student-athletes he leads. I am excited for the next chapter of Cardinal football and eager for our student-athletes to experience Troy’s passion, wisdom and leadership.”

And from Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne in the same statement, “I am thrilled, and on behalf of the university community I am delighted to welcome him to Stanford. I want to express my appreciation to Bernard Muir and the search committee for identifying a deeply qualified pool of interested candidates and ultimately selecting a terrific fit to lead the Cardinal. Troy brings a wealth of experience, and I know that he will continue our proud commitment at Stanford to an exceptional academic and athletic experience for our student-athletes. I am excited to see where he will take our program.”

And Taylor in that release, “I am thrilled to be the new football coach at Stanford University. The opportunity to lead the finest student-athletes in the country is truly a dream come true. I believe that Stanford Football is perfectly positioned to become champions on the football field while maintaining our world-class reputation for academic excellence.”

What’s next for Sac State?

Who might take over for Taylor? Taylor brought longtime friend and Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson with him to Sacramento State to serve as assistant head coach and offensive line coach. Taylor is big on “football family” and that includes longtime friend Bobby Fresques, the Hornets’ quarterback coach and one-time Folsom assistant.

Sacramento State’s staff also includes highly regarded defensive coordinator Andy Thompson, who wants to be a head coach. Other possible names to replace Taylor could include former Hornets linemen and assistant coaches Jon Osterhout, who has coached American River College to success, and Angus McClure, a longtime college assistant who was just hired at Nevada for a third tour after a recent stint as Cal’s line coach.

Orr told The Bee on Friday night that he expected Taylor to receive interest because, “he’s a great coach. He’s been incredible here.”

Taylor said Sacramento State will continue to flourish, saying, “We’ve established something special here.”

This story was originally published December 10, 2022 10:00 AM.

Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988: preps, colleges, Kings and features. He is a 14-time award winner from the California Prep Sports Writer Association. In 2021, he was honored with the CIF Distinguished Service award. He is a member of the California Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Davidson participated in football and track in Oregon, his legend never growing.

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