SAN JOSE -- San Jose State followed the route of its nearest rival Monday when it named Ron Caragher its new head football coach.
Caragher joins the Spartans after a successful six-year run at the University of San Diego, where he replaced Jim Harbaugh after the 49ers coach left to join Stanford.
"He followed a pretty good coach that we're all familiar with here in the Bay Area. And so this is nothing new for him to follow a good coach," San Jose State athletic director Gene Bleymaier said.
Caragher (pronounced CARE-ah-grrr) went 44-22 at San Diego. He takes over for Mike MacIntyre, who left for Colorado after guiding San Jose State to a 10-2 regular season this year. Caragher signed a five-year contract, terms of which were not made available and are still waiting approval.
"There are some big shoes to fill, and I love it," Caragher said. "I love challenges."
Caragher plans to be in attendance Dec. 27 in Washington, D.C., when San Jose State faces Bowling Green in the Military Bowl. Interim head coach Kent Baer will remain in charge through the game.
The new job is a homecoming for Caragher, 45, who was born in Redwood City, grew up in Morgan Hill and attended high school at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose.
"Coming back here to this point is real exciting for me," Caragher said. "I'm really embracing this challenge and opportunity."
San Jose State moved quickly, hiring Caragher a week after the departure of MacIntyre, who had been a rumored candidate for several openings.
"I had a list of tremendous coaches that I was interested in and I felt the search committee would be interested in," Bleymaier said. "We were definitely prepared. We weren't surprised to lose Coach Mac. We were sad and it was unfortunate, but not unexpected."
Caragher was one of five coaches SJSU formally interviewed. Bleymaier declined to name the other candidates. He said he informally interviewed several others and the quality of the candidate pool allowed them to move quickly.
"When you've got quality candidates everywhere you turn, the hard part is not getting candidates, the hard part is making a decision because you can only hire one," Bleymaier said.
Caragher met with the players before Tuesday's news conference and plans to spend the rest of the week in San Jose. He plans to start assembling his staff soon. He'll emphasize program consistency along with hiring coaches he's familiar with.
"I think some continuity is important to a degree," Caragher said. "I've got to be true to me and guys that I've worked with."
Quarterback David Fales spoke briefly with Caragher after the news conference and seemed excited about a coach whose offense is "predicated on successful quarterback play."
"I'm excited to meet him and work with him and get to know him a little more," Fales said. "He seems like a great guy and the things that I've heard, he really cares about his players."
Sophomore wide receiver Jabari Carr, a San Jose native, is happy to see a local guy take charge of the program.
"I love seeing local faces," Carr said. "I feel at home and him being local makes me feel even more at home."
Caragher was a three-sport star (football, basketball, track) at Bellarmine and was inducted into the school's hall of fame in April. He quarterbacked the Bells to the Central Coast Section championship game at Spartan Stadium in 1984.
Caragher's playing career continued at UCLA, where he was a backup quarterback from 1985-89, including two seasons playing behind Troy Aikman.
He returned to UCLA, first as a graduate assistant in 1994. In nine years with the Bruins, he coached under both Terry Donahue and Bob Toledo.
Caragher left to join Rich Brooks' staff at Kentucky in 2003 and spent four years as a running backs coach. The final three seasons he served as the Wildcats' recruiting coordinator. Kentucky's 2006 team, the last of Caragher's tenure, was the first Wildcats team to win a bowl game in 22 years.
His first head coaching gig came in 2007 when he replaced Harbaugh at San Diego, a nonscholarship school that plays at the Football Championship Subdivision level. The Toreros earned a share of three Pioneer Football League titles, including this season when they went 8-3.
The Post said MacIntyre said he would bring in Baer if he didn't get the SJSU job. The Post said MacIntyre will announce them as his coordinators when he names the entire staff.
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HEAD COACHING RECORD
Year School Record
2007 U. of San Diego 9-2
2008 U. of San Diego 9-2
2009 U. of San Diego 4-7
2010 U. of San Diego 5-6
2011 U. of San Diego 9-2
2012 U. of San Diego 8-3
Other coaching experience: UCLA assistant (wide receivers, kickers), 1996-2002; Kentucky running backs coach/recruiting coordinator, 2003-2006.
ONLINE EXTRA: Mark Purdy reads between the lines to learn about the Caragher hiring,