In the wake of Andy Avalos’ major life decision, his daughters Paityn and Paige have asked the big questions.
“Will we learn Spanish at our new school, too?”
“Which toys can I take with me?”
Avalos is the new defensive coordinator at Oregon after seven seasons on the staff at Boise State, and he has been living in a hotel in Eugene as the Ducks prepare for Saturday’s start of spring practices.
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His daughters, ages 5 and 3, and his wife, Summer, will visit Friday, a return to reality for Avalos, who has been arriving to the team facility at 6:30 a.m. daily and leaving well after it gets dark.
“It’s a new thing for them, too, something we had to do a bit, but it’s been a long time,” Avalos said Thursday in a phone interview with the Idaho Statesman. “I wasn’t looking to leave by any means, but this was an opportunity that doesn’t come along often.”
Avalos told the Boise State team and staff on Feb. 26 that he was leaving for Oregon, and he was officially announced as the Ducks’ newest hire three days later. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal pushed back the start of spring practices two days to allow Avalos to put in some of his base concepts.
Avalos spent part of his introductory news conference telling the Oregon media about the STUD end position he will incorporate, one that has been instrumental for the Broncos with the likes of Curtis Weaver, Jabril Frazier and Kamalei Correa.
A former Boise State linebacker and an assistant for the Broncos since 2012, Avalos pointed to Oregon’s tradition and working with Cristobal, along with “my chance to develop,” as key reasons for heading to Eugene. It wasn’t the first shot he had at leaving for a Power Five job, but it was the right fit.
“There have been a few other teams that have reached out, but it wasn’t the right time or right place,” Avalos said. “These decisions have a lot of ramifications from all different perspectives, there’s not a lot of places you’d leave Boise for, not a lot of places that would interest you. Am I at a place where I can be successful and develop? All those things are present here.”
Avalos was approached about the job soon after returning from a family vacation in Mexico, and perked up when he knew Cristobal was serious. Yes, the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl in which Avalos’ defense held Oregon to 280 yards, had four sacks and forced four turnovers was brought up quickly.
But Avalos said most of the interview process was about more philosophical things regarding what he would bring to the table.
“His presence as a teacher, his ability to articulate the defense, the answers that go with it from the front to the back really stick out,” Cristobal said.
Boise State’s defensive coordinator the last three seasons, Avalos said he had a strong working relationship with the rest of the staff and coach Bryan Harsin. Breaking the news to them, and especially the players, was as tough as gameplanning against the option. A handful of players tweeted emotional goodbyes.
“I was very invested in the program, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do,” Avalos said. “The bonds are mutual. The impact they’ve had, they’ve changed me. To know we’ve had that impact on their lives, but as people, that’s why we do this.”
At Oregon, Avalos is due to make $2.4 million over the next three seasons. His Boise State contract was set to pay him $350,000 this season. He said “it’s not the end factor, it helps, but it’s not the end to all of it. It’s more about the fit.” He will recruit similar areas for the Ducks that he did for the Broncos.
In the Pac-12 North, he will face teams led by former Boise State coaches in Washington (Chris Petersen), Cal (Justin Wilcox) and Oregon State (Jonathan Smith). They all left Boise to continue to develop, to seek new challenges. Even Harsin did when he spent 2011-13 at Texas and Arkansas State.
Naturally, with his departure, many wonder if Avalos would one day have his sights set on returning to Boise, but he has not even coached a single practice at Oregon.
Still, as Harsin said recently, Avalos “bleeds blue” as much as anyone.
“I’ve never set out and said, ‘I want to be a head coach.’ I want to do the best in my role, let the rest handle itself,” Avalos said. “It’s got me this far, staying on that track. Whatever opportunities, we’ll address them when they pop up. Boise has a huge spot in my heart. It’s the place that helped me grow.”