Cal Poly football coach Tim Walsh is searching for a new offensive coordinator after longtime assistant Saga Tuitele resigned Saturday to accept a position at New Mexico.
Tuitele leaves the program seven weeks before the Mustangs’ 2016 season opener at Nevada. He spent eight seasons on Cal Poly’s coaching staff and served as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach since 2009.
Walsh said during a phone interview Saturday he expects to name Tuitele’s successor in the near future. He also plans to promote a current assistant to handle the play calling duties. Potential in-house candidates for that role could include quarterbacks coach Juston Wood, running backs coach Aristotle Thompson and wide receivers coach Jim Craft.
“Well, personally, I couldn’t be happier for him,” Walsh said. “Since 1996, he’s been with me. It’s a little tougher to lose not only a great coach but to lose a personal friend.”
Tuitele will take over as the offensive line coach and running game coordinator at New Mexico under head coach Bob Davie. He replaces Jason Lenzmeier, who resigned earlier this month.
When New Mexico contacted Tuitele earlier this month, Walsh began building a short list a candidates to replace him. Walsh said Saturday he feels “pretty confident that I’ve got the guy that we need right now” and plans to make the hire official within the next few days.
“He’s going to have 25 or 30 years of triple-option experience at the best schools in the country,” Walsh said of Tuitele’s expected replacement.
Under Tuitele’s guidance, the Mustangs’ triple-option offense consistently ranked among the best units in the FCS. Cal Poly has led the country in rushing each of the past three seasons and set the school and Big Sky Conference records by averaging more than 387 rushing yards per game in 2015.
The 36-year-old Tuitele was an all-conference offensive lineman during his playing days under Walsh at Portland State. He went on to spend four seasons on Walsh’s staff in Portland, coaching the defensive tackles during a dominant stretch in the mid-2000s.
Tuitele, a San Bernardino native, followed Walsh to Army in 2007 as the offensive line coach and later returned to the West Coast when he accepted the job at Cal Poly. Tuitele and his wife, Rachel, have four children, all under 10 years old.
“Over 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to watch him grow as a player and a student,” Walsh said. “Then I’ve had the opportunity to watch him grow as a man and a husband and a father.
“I’ve really seen Saga develop into just a tremendous young man that’s got an extremely bright future.”
Walsh and senior linebacker Joseph Gigantino are scheduled to attend the Big Sky Kickoff Event held Sunday through Tuesday in Park City, Utah.