OGDEN -- Weber State football coach Jody Sears says he has complete trust in former Montana head coach Robin Pflugrad, who he hired on Thursday to be his offensive coordinator.
Sears also announced promotions for two current staff members.
Eric Lewis will become WSU's defensive coordinator, taking the reins from Sears, who held that responsibility as well as serving as the interim head coach last season before being given a 3-year extension in November. Offensive line coach Steve Morton, who has extensive Pac-12 coaching experience, was also be named associate head coach.
Pflugrad, who led the Grizzlies to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals in his second season as head coach at Montana, was the 2011 Big Sky coach of the year before being let go along with Grizzlies athletics director Jim O'Day last March.
University of Montana President Royce Engstrom did not give a reason for the firings at the time and thanked Pflugrad and O'Day for their service, but the dismissals came shortly after Pflugrad offered statements of support for Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson, who had returned to the team briefly after being accused of rape. Johnson is currently on trial for the charge in Missoula, Mont.
While he might still be the head coach at Montana otherwise, Pflugrad said he doesn't regret his support for Johnson, who he called a person of "character and tremendous moral fiber" prior to his dismissal by Engstrom.
"In the context of how the question was asked, I really do not regret it," Pflugrad said. "I was there as a surrogate parent to 103 football players, as well as their football coach. It takes a village to raise a football player, to get them through school, to get them graduated and move on in life. I've had so many positive comments from coaches in football and college basketball that all said, you know, coach, I believe you said the right things because you believed in him as a human being and we need more coaches like you."
Pflugrad said he visited many programs during the fall while he was out of the game and was grateful to be hired by Sears.
"The older you get the more you realize you want to be in the same foxhole with good people and Jody Sears is a great person," Pflugrad said. "I think I can really help him in many ways and help the program."
Sears first met Pflugrad through common coaching connections at Sears' alma mater, Washington State, and got to know him better when he tried to recruit Pflugrad's son Aaron to Eastern Washington.
Pflugrad has made assistant coaching stops at Arizona State, Washington State, Oregon and Portland State in his career. His experience gives him instant credibility as an offensive coordinator, Sears said.
When newly hired offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach decided to move on to UNLV after only a couple of months at Weber State, Sears said Pflugrad was the first person he thought of.
After all of his character references and research on Pflugrad, hiring him "was a no-brainer," he said.
The circumstances of Pflugrad's departure from Montana "had nothing to do with my decision making on Robin because I know that coach Pflugrad is a man of integrity, he's a man of character, he's a good man, a tremendous father, a tremendous husband, he is a tremendous person," Sears said. "That's what I was buying. I know he's extremely loyal, he's extremely trustworthy.
"I was looking at if from a pure trust and loyalty and character standpoint."
Weber State athletics director Jerry Bovee said he was satisfied with his department's vetting of Pflugrad and making sure that he had not been complicit in breaking rules or cheating.
"From my perspective and from the information I've been able to gather, and I've talked to people from all over the country, I'm comfortable that this is a man with integrity and obviously we're comfortable enough with what we've learned that we've offered him a job with our program," Bovee said.
Pflugrad's coaching credentials weren't in question.
"I know he's a winner. We want winners associated with our program," Bovee said.
Lewis, the son of longtime NFL coach Sherman Lewis, was previously a defensive coordinator at Eastern Michigan during the 2009 season. He coached the cornerbacks at Weber State last season.
"I love his energy and expertise," Sears said. "He's been with a lot of good football coaches, he's got a great defensive mind to be able to play to the strengths (of the team). ... I'm still going to have a heavy hand on the defensive side of the ball because that's where my DNA lies. He's going to be able to help manage and facilitate the daily operations on that side of the ball."
Elevating Morton to associate head coach was an acknowledgment of his contributions, Sears said.
"He is my mentor and he is my No. 1 adviser," Sears said. "He's the guy I look to because I have an extreme amount of respect for that man and and appreciation and I want to make it doesn't go unnoticed. ... When I need advice and counsel, that's the first guy I look to."