Weber State names interim football coach

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 12:46 PM

Roy Burton

OGDEN — Jody Sears has a job he never asked for.

In late November when Weber State athletics director Jerry Bovee was conducting the search that led to the hiring of John L. Smith, Sears was the co-defensive coordinator at Washington State and thought he was going to stay there.

After Paul Wulff and his staff were fired in Pullman, Wash., Sears signed on with Smith to become Weber State’s defensive coordinator in January but wasn’t officially announced in Ogden until April 2.

On Thursday, Sears was named Weber State’s interim football coach, mere days after Smith bolted without warning Monday to take the Arkansas job vacated by Bobby Petrino.

In the aftermath of Smith’s sudden departure, Bovee met with each remaining member of the football staff.

“When I met with (Sears), it was always about the program, the players, the other staff members. I don’t think he once said, ‘I want this job,’ and that really appealed to me,” Bovee said. “He wanted to do whatever he could do to help in a difficult situation, and I think that reveals a little bit about him.

“When he met with the team, he said, ‘This isn’t about Jody Sears, this is about how we’re going to do this as a group,’ and that’s refreshing.”

Sears, 44, will be the head coach for the 2012 season and will be re-evaluated afterward, Bovee said. The rest of Weber State’s staff remains intact and Sears will try to add another assistant soon.

Sears will continue in his role as defensive coordinator, overseeing the Wildcats’ transition to a 4-2-5 scheme. He knows the Big Sky Conference, where he was a defensive coordinator at Eastern Washington under Wulff from 2003-07, but had never been a head coach before Thursday, when he was thrust into an unexpected role.

Sears admitted his head was spinning a little from the sudden promotion.

“Anytime you’re a head coach of a Division I institution, it’s a humbling honor, there’s no question,” he said. “OK, that’s the warm and fuzzy part. Let’s get the jacket off, so we can roll up our sleeves and get to work.

“This is a life lesson. This is a great teachable moment for this football program, for the university,” Sears said. “We’ve got an awesome opportunity to grow these kids, to come together as a football team and be a contender. Everything’s in place. Coach Smith did a tremendous job of laying the foundation, the blueprint for what needs to happen and everything’s going to remain the same.”

Sears was previously an assistant coach at Army from 2000-02, a defensive coordinator at NAIA school St. Ambrose in 1998 and a grad assistant at Iowa State for three seasons.

In his collegiate career, he played wide receiver at Washington State, where one of his coaches was former Weber State coach Mike Price and Smith was the defensive coordinator.

Teams grow through adversity, he said, and Smith’s unexpected departure is the Wildcats’ opportunity to do that.

“This is all about the process. It’s about the process of these kids growing and becoming men and becoming leaders and growing in their character. Yeah, we want to win the championship and we want to win football games and man, I’d love to be the head coach here at Weber State for a long time, but we’re not going to focus on the outcome, we’re going to focus on the process.”

Bovee said there was a tremendous amount of interest from candidates outside the program, which was one reason he acted quickly to name an interim coach.

“It was my intent from the start to try to go in-house if we could,” Bovee said. “That’s a good sign that there was that much interest. That means that Weber State’s growing in the vision that people might have of this being a place that you can be successful, I like that, that we’re marketable that way, but I didn’t feel that now was the time to go down that road.”

Sears will be evaluated at the end of the season before Bovee decides whether to reopen a coaching search.

“If we’re in a good place at the end of the year, we’re going to have that discussion and see what will go on in the future,” Bovee said. “It will be more than just wins and losses. It will be leadership abilities, and it will be all kinds of other aspects that will go into that decision.”

Sears said his first responsibility is to keep the current coaching staff on the same page.

“When this happened, that’s the first priority — boys, we’ve got to stick together, these nine guys here in this room. Regardless of if it’s coach (Matt) Hammer or myself, whoever, Cecil (Thomas), (Colton Swan), anybody. We’ve got to support each other. We have to be lock-armed and continue to support, because we can’t let this thing fracture.

It’s a great teachable moment about leadership. You’ve got to be a leader, you’ve got to set your ego aside. … That was priority No.1, making sure the staff was united, and we are. We have a great staff. Coach (Smith) did a good job of assembling some fine young coaches.”

Senior tight end and team captain Brian Jankowski is ready for the season now.

“Let’s do it. Let’s go. I’m ready. I think it’s a good hire, I think it was smart to keep it within, and coach Sears is a great guy, a great coach. Right away, I bought into his philosophy of how he runs things, so I’m looking forward to it.”

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