ARIZONA FOOTBALL

What to know about new Arizona football coach Brent Brennan

Jan 16, 2024, 1:09 PM

San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan is headed to Arizona...

Head coach Lincoln Riley of the USC Trojans greets head coach Brent Brennan of the San Jose State Spartans after the 56-28 win at United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 26, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

The Arizona Wildcats moved swiftly in replacing departing football coach Jedd Fisch with Brent Brennan, the San Jose State head coach credited with turning around an underfunded Mountain West program.

What made Brennan one of the top candidates for athletic director Dave Heeke and University of Arizona president Dr. Robert Robbins in 2020 and again in 2023?

Here are a few quick facts to get to know the Wildcats’ new leader.

Brent Brennan’s ties to former Arizona coach Dick Tomey run deep

Brennan only spent one year in Tucson as a graduate assistant on Dick Tomey’s staff in 2000. While that year was underwhelming, with a 5-6 record being Tomey’s last season at Arizona, their connection does go well beyond a single season.

Brent’s brother, Brad Brennan, played for Tomey as a receiver at Arizona from 1996-2000.

Brent Brennan and Tomey reconnected from 2005-09 at San Jose State, where the latter was head coach. Brennan coached receivers, tights ends and ultimately became offensive coordinator.

Brennan spoke at Tomey’s celebration of life in 2019, calling him his “football dad.”

In that speech, Brennan also mentioned Marcus Arroyo, who was also on San Jose State’s staff under Tomey from 2005-08.

Arroyo was just hired this offseason as rival Arizona State’s offensive coordinator under second-year head coach Kenny Dillingham.

What is the context behind a 34-48 record as head coach?

Brennan’s record as head coach at San Jose State might stand out. He’s 34-48 without any other head-coaching job on his resume, but the circumstances are worth pointing out.

He went 2-11 and 1-11 in his first two years (2017 and 2018) leading the Spartans before hitting the five-win mark twice and seven-win point three times in the past five years. SJSU lost all three of its bowl games under Brennan.

But here’s a lens of understanding what Brennan was working with at San Jose State, from The Athletic’s Antonio Morales’ insider peek at the Spartans’ program this past year:

Breakfast is the the only meal of the day that is served to the football players in the Spartan Athletics Center. They’ll get swipe cards for lunch and dinner that can be used for meals on campus, but that’s a far cry from what occurs at Power 5 programs, where players are provided with three meals per day and nutrition plans targeted specifically for their needs.

The “complication” is cost. Cash rules above all else in college football, and San Jose State simply doesn’t have enough of it. The Spartans are one of the worst-resourced schools in FBS. It might sound weird to others at the university as Brennan sits in a new facility that costs roughly $60 million dollars, but the Spartans are drastically behind in the sport’s never-ending arms race.

The goal post on the practice field is broken. It’s August and the field, which is shared with the men’s and women’s soccer programs, is already brown. But if it comes down to fixing that or raising money to buy food for the players, food takes precedence.

Those inequities show up in other ways too. There are only two full-time strength coaches, one full-time recruiting staffer and one student manager each for offense and defense. Position coaches often set up their own drills during practice.

Up until this month, the staff had to set up and break down 120 folding chairs every day just to hold team meetings.

What’s Brennan’s football ID and developmental track record?

Dating back to 2019 after Brennan’ helped to shift SJSU’s losing culture, the Spartans have been predominantly an offensive team.

According to ESPN analyst Bill Connelly’s efficiency rankings, San Jose State has been a top-50 offensive team two times (2019, 2023) and a top-50 defensive team once (2020) by efficiency rating.

The Spartans in the past five years have ranked higher on offense than defense three times and by average have leaned more offensively talented (66.4 average ranking to 79 ranking on defense).

That’s unsurprising with Brennan having a background coaching receivers.

Among the individual seasons that stand out in his offenses, Brennan coached Fred Biletnikoff Award winner Brandin Cooks, the Oregon State receiver who put together an NCAA-leading 1,730 receiving yards with 16 receiving touchdowns in 2013.

This past year, San Jose State running back Kairee Robinson posted 20 total touchdowns, fourth-most in NCAA.

Comments

Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Arizona Football

University of Arizona president Dr. Robert Robbins...

Arizona Sports

University of Arizona president Dr. Robert Robbins to step down

University of Arizona president Dr. Robert Robbins has been involved in the hires of Jedd Fisch, Tommy Lloyd and Brent Brennan.

13 days ago

Wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan #4 of the Arizona Wildcats celebrates with Noah Fifita #11 after ca...

Arizona Sports

ESPN’s Rittenberg: Arizona Wildcats’ QB room ranks 10th in nation

Led by the final Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Noah Fifita, the Arizona Wildcats' quarterback room was ranked 10th in the nation.

29 days ago

Grand Canyon forward Duke Brennan...

Vincent DeAngelis

Duke Brennan uses inspiration from family and high motor to propel GCU basketball

Grand Canyon's Duke Brennan has strong Arizona connections and comes from a family of athletes in Colt and Brent Brennan.

1 month ago

Jordan Morgan...

Arizona Sports

Arizona OL, potential 1st-round pick Jordan Morgan shows off speed at NFL Draft Combine

Arizona left tackle Jordan Morgan had the opportunity to show off his speed and athleticism at the NFL Combine on Sunday.

1 month ago

Jacob Cowing...

Arizona Sports

Arizona’s Jacob Cowing shows off elite speed at NFL Scouting Combine

NFL Draft prospect Jacob Cowing from Arizona put up one of the fastest 40-yard dash times among wide receivers at the combine.

1 month ago

An empty podium is seen at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by...

David Veenstra

What to watch for: 2024 NFL Scouting Combine schedule, preview and more

The NFL Scouting Combine begins this week in Indianapolis. Here's a complete guide for college and professional fans across Arizona.

2 months ago

What to know about new Arizona football coach Brent Brennan