OGDEN — After shuffling through three football coaches since November, Weber State is sticking with the coach who got the Wildcats through a tough 2012 season.
Jody Sears will be given a three-year contract to continue as football coach, WSU athletics director Jerry Bovee announced Wednesday morning.
Sears said the contract extension was not his ultimate goal. “The payoff I’m going to be looking for is a championship,” he said. “That’s going to be my payoff.”
Sears, 45, arrived at Weber State last January to be defensive coordinator on John L. Smith’s staff. He was promoted to interim coach in April when Smith, who was hired in December to replace retiring coach Ron McBride, left suddenly to take a coaching job in Arkansas.
Sears’ first act without the “interim coach” label was to hire his old teammate Timm Rosenbach as Weber State’s offensive coordinator, a position Rosenbach held at Montana this season.
Rosenbach, a former NFL quarterback and college all-American who finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1988, played with Sears at Pullman High and Washington State.
“Jody and I go back to high school,” Rosenbach told the Missoulian newspaper on Wednesday. “We’re pretty much like brothers. The situation there is one that’s going to continue to grow, and I was excited to have a chance to be a part of it.”
Bovee said continuity was an important reason for bringing Sears back after the Wildcats’ 2-9 record in the 2012 season.
“Stability in the program is key. If you look at the track record of programs that have had to change head coaches multiple times in any sport, that’s just a difficult way to go,” he said.
“The fact that we were competitive in nearly every game that we played this year sent a message that we were close on the margin.
“Although we were 2-9, I think we’re close to getting right back where we’ve been over the last couple of years.”
Stability is also important to Sears and his wife, Molly, who won’t be uprooting their family for the second time in a year.
“It means a ton. We love this community, we love the people here, we love what this university and this community represent and the family values that exist here,” Sears said. “It means the world to us. I hope we can do a good enough job we can be here for a long time.”
On-field stability will be the key to improving on WSU’s 2-9 overall record, 2-6 in the Big Sky Conference, Sears said.
“What that means for our players is continued growth and maybe a little more rapidly,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about who the next coach is going to be.”
There will be some changes, however.
Offensive coordinator Matt Hammer, a former Clearfield High standout, is leaving after seven seasons at Weber State.
Sears, who served as WSU’s defensive coordinator this year, may appoint someone else to fill that role.
Bovee said there were many instances through the year that showed him Sears should be given a long-term chance to build the program, starting with how the staff prepared the team for the season opener at Fresno State and how Sears thoughtfully approached the hiring of a new assistant.
The Wildcats lost by five points to Sacramento State on Oct. 13 to fall to 0-7, but after a bye week, they upset in-state rival Southern Utah 24-22 for their first win.
Weber State then lost to Montana by three points and Northern Colorado by eight before blowing out border rival Idaho State 40-14 on Saturday to end the season on a high note.
“The SUU game was telling,” Bovee said. “I got a glimpse of what (Sears) will provide as the head coach, but more than anything, it was a lot of little occurrences over the year that gave us the confidence that he’ll be able to get this going.”
Bovee said Sears never blamed the Wildcats’ struggles this season on the turbulence created by Smith’s sudden departure.
“I was watching for that,” Bovee said. “I wasn’t interested in excuses, and I’m not interested in the term ‘rebuilding.’
“I want to hear the head coach talk about what it will take and how we can compete now. I didn’t hear (excuses) out of him. … I’m hearing him say he has a plan, and he’s convinced me and our administration he can do this.”