SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Bay Area native Ron Caragher is back home.
Caragher, who was introduced as the new football coach at San Jose State on Monday, still has family in nearby Morgan Hill and plans to be in the area before boarding a plane to watch the Spartans play at the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 27 two days later.
``This is a homecoming for me,'' Caragher said. ``I used to attend Spartan camps in the summer and as a high school player I watched games and played in games at Spartan Stadium.''
Caragher, who spent the past six years at San Diego, replaces Mike MacIntyre to become the 28th coach at the school. He signed a five-year contract a week after MacIntyre left to take the head job at Colorado. The No. 24 Spartans finished the regular season 10-2.
After the 1-12 season two years ago featuring a heavy schedule of ranked teams, the Spartans went 5-7 in MacIntyre's second season last year before this season's rise to become a nationally respected program.
``Things were up in the air when we didn't know much,'' Spartans quarterback David Fales said. ``We finally have a coach again and we can get back to work.''
Caragher replaced Jim Harbaugh, who is coaching the San Francisco 49ers, at San Diego, where he compiled a 44-22 record with three conference championships. He's also been an assistant coach at UCLA, Kentucky.
Harbaugh learned Monday afternoon that San Jose State had hired Caragher, and called him a ``wonderful, wonderful, wonderful guy and coach.''
``I would stop back down there when I was in San Diego. Talked on the phone many times and just through players who were still there at USD,'' Harbaugh said. ``Like I said when I'd be recruiting in San Diego I'd always stop by the trailer and see if anybody was there. Ron's been up here recruiting in the Bay Area when I was over at Stanford. We'd run into each other. Great guy. Great guy, great family. My son will be disappointed. He's friends with Ron's son. They go to the same high school. But that's great. Great hire by San Jose State.''
``He talked to us a team,'' Fales said of Caragher. ``From everything I've heard he's a down-to-earth person who really cares about his players.''
Caragher attended Bellarmine Prep in San Jose before going on to UCLA, where he spent four years as a backup quarterback.
``Being at San Diego, we would recruit the Bay Area,'' Caragher said. ``I've always come up every December and I had a trip planned this year. Northern California has been very good to us and I hope it can continue to be good.''
San Jose State athletic director Gene Bleymaier said Caragher was always an option as a potential candidate.
``I have followed Coach Caragher's career for some time,'' said Bleymaier, who came to San Jose State from Boise State. ``I've always hoped I would have the opportunity to hire him here at some point. Little did I know it would be so soon.''
Bleymaier said the selection committee vetted about 10 candidates and brought in five for formal interviews.
``What impressed me about Ron was everything,'' Bleymaier said. ``From his reputation, his background, his local roots, it was a total package.''
Caragher has been nominated for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, which recognizes the top coach in the Football Championship Subdivision.
When San Jose State wide receiver Jabari Carr was introduced to Caragher, the coach quickly asked him to assume his stance and took a minute for a quick lesson.
``I'm impressed with how far this team came,'' Caragher said. ``That took commitment. I'm excited for this challenge and this opportunity.''
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report from San Francisco.