YAKIMA, Wash. -- The most familiar name is John Graham. The biggest is Chris Tormey.
There is also Ian Shoemaker, co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at St. Cloud State in St. Cloud, Minn., and Mat Taylor, head coach at Skyline High School.
From this pool of finalists will emerge Central Washington’s 24th head football coach, and first-year athletic director Dennis Francois said Wednesday that he intends to have a new coach in place by Jan. 1.
In the meantime, the candidates have been scheduled for on-campus interviews and other appearances in Ellensburg next week.
“How soon we make a hire will depend on a number of processes, including the soliciting of feedback from various constituents,” Francois said. “We would love to make someone an offer by Christmas.”
The new coach will succeed John Picha, a longtime CWU assistant who served last season on an interim basis after Blaine Bennett was fired on Aug. 9. Picha chose not to seek the job on a permanent basis.
Graham, a former Central player and assistant coach and current Eastern Washington associate head coach and defensive coordinator, will arrive Monday. Shoemaker, a native of Graham near Tacoma, will appear in Ellensburg on Tuesday.
Tormey, a former aide to Don James at Washington and later a head coach at Idaho and Nevada, will follow on Wednesday with Taylor, a 1999 Central graduate and presently the head coach at Skyline in Sammamish, due Thursday.
Graham, reached Wednesday morning by telephone in Cheney where he was busily preparing a defensive game plan for Saturday’s FCS home playoff game against Jacksonville State, said, “It’s a chance to be a head coach at a great institution with a lot of history and tradition. Central is obviously near and dear to my heart. If you cut me, I’ll always bleed crimson.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do, and this is the right time.”
Graham, a two-year Wildcat standout as a defensive back, assisted head coaches Mike Dunbar, Jeff Zenisek and John Zamberlin.
He was a finalist for the top job in 2007 after Zamberlin left for Idaho State and Beau Baldwin was hired. Graham then followed Baldwin to Eastern a year later when Baldwin was named to succeed Paul Wulff, who had taken the job at Washington State.
The 58-year-old Tormey, meanwhile, clearly has the highest profile. He is also the only one with head coaching experience at the college level, having run programs at both Idaho and Nevada.
Wednesday night, he was also reported to be one of three finalists for the head coaching vacancy at Whitworth College in Spokane, where Tormey grew up.
A native of Omaha, Neb., Tormey began his career as an assistant to Don James at Washington in 1984. He worked on the staffs of James and Jim Lambright through the 1994 season, and in 1995 he became head coach at Idaho, his alma mater.
The Vandals went 33-23 during their five years under Tormey’s leadership, including 3-2 against archrival Boise State, and elevated from what was then NCAA I-AA competition to NCAA I-A. Idaho reached its first bowl game in 1998, beating Southern Mississippi in the Humanitarian Bowl.
Tormey then moved to Nevada — formerly Nevada-Reno — and led the Wolf Pack for four seasons before being replaced by Chris Ault, the school’s athletic director, as head coach. Nevada was 16-31 under Tormey.
From there he returned to Washington as an assistant to Keith Gilbertson and Tyrone Willingham. On Willingham’s exit after the 2008 season he served as an assistant at Hawaii for two years, came to Washington State for Wulff’s final season in 2011 and most recently was defensive coordinator at Wyoming.
The Cowboys head coach, Dave Christensen, fired Tormey last October and was himself dismissed after the season.
Shoemaker, a one-time Western Washington assistant, has been on St. Cloud’s staff since 2008. The Huskies went 12-2 this past season and reached the NCAA Division II quarterfinals where they lost to Northwest Missouri State.
Previously, Shoemaker had served as offensive coordinator and QB coach at Baldwin Wallace College of Ohio and had also assisted at Kenyon College in Ohio, Minot State in North Dakota and St. Mary College in Kansas.
He was Western Washington’s running backs and tight ends coach from 1997-99.
At Skyline, Taylor worked with highly-successful coach Steve Gervais and has been the Spartans’ head man the past six seasons. Skyline has won four Class 4A state championships under Taylor, whose record there is 72-9.