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Offensive innovator Chris Ault leaves Nevada, could head to NFL

Chris Ault

FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2012, file phtoo, Nevada coach Chris Ault talks to an official during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Fresno State in Reno, Nev. Ault is retiring after 28 seasons leading the Wolf Pack and changing the way teams play offense. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison, File)


Most NFL fans probably don’t know the name of Chris Ault, the longtime University of Nevada head coach who announced on Friday that he is stepping down. But NFL fans may be hearing more about him soon.

Ault, who has spent almost all of his adult life as a player, coach or administrator at the University of Nevada, made a specific point of stating that he is not retiring, and also that he is not looking to take on a role in the school’s athletic department. That has led to speculation that Ault could be looking to coach in the NFL, and Ault didn’t rule that out when asked by the Reno Gazette-Journal what he’ll do next.

I have a lot left in me,” Ault said. “I’m in my offensive prime. I feel good about where I’m at. My energy level is still very high. Whether I coach again, I don’t know.”

Ault is an innovative offensive mind who created a modified shotgun offense that he calls the “pistol,” and he has a lot of admirers among the NFL coaching ranks. Those admirers include 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who traveled to Nevada to learn from Ault and has started employing a lot of Ault’s concepts in the 49ers’ offense, run by one of Ault’s former quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick.

Whether an NFL team offers Ault a spot on its coaching staff or not remains to be seen. But at a time when Oregon’s spread offense guru Chip Kelly is considered the hottest head-coaching candidate in the league, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Ault get some offers to become an offensive assistant in the NFL. There was a time when people in the NFL turned up their noses at college spread offenses and saw them as mere gimmicks. But that time is coming to an end. Coaches like Ault have already changed college football, and now they could change the NFL.