[thinking man]
Personal Best
Ron Caragher, USD’s new football coach, promises to demand the most from his players
by Tom Shanahan

New football coach Ron Caragher comes to USD from the University of Kentucky, where he was an assistant coach. Previously he spent nine seasons on UCLA’s coaching staff.

New USD football coach Ron Caragher is eager to build on USD’s recent success and doesn’t fear the inevitable comparisons with his predecessor, Jim Harbaugh. Last year, the Toreros won back-to-back NCAA Division I-AA Mid-Major titles and Pioneer Football League championships with an 11-1 record. Coping with comparisons is something Caragher learned as a UCLA athlete and has studied as a coach. At UCLA, he thought he was in line to become a starter, but then Troy Aikman transferred in from Oklahoma. Aikman became an All-American for the Bruins and went on to a Pro Foot-ball Hall-of-Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys.

As an assistant coach, Caragher began to read books by former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, an icon in American sports. “My introductory talk to the team was about comparisons and putting forth your best effort,” he says. “You might feel like you’re a failure if you compare yourself to someone who is better, like a Troy Aikman. But if you compare yourself to someone with limited ability, are you a success? I want my players to compete against themselves with their best personal effort.”

Caragher has challenged the 2007 Toreros with a tougher schedule than last year’s slate of games. USD, which doesn’t recruit athletes with scholarships, played one scholarship school last year, losing at UC Davis. In addition to Caragher scheduling a rematch at UC Davis on Nov. 17, he added a second scholarship opponent: Northern Colorado plays Sept. 15 at Torero Stadium.

“We want to push our team and challenge them,” Caragher says. ”It will be challenging, but that’s what makes it exciting.”