OGDEN -- The question of whether Jody Sears will continue as the Wildcats football coach after the end of this season is written into his contract extension.
In the agreement dated Dec. 1, 2012, Weber State University reserves the right to release Sears, for cause and without further compensation, in case of "failure of the WSU Football program to win 4 games during the 2013 or 6 games during the 2014 season."
Left unanswered in the contract is under what conditions Sears will be retained if Weber State (1-10, 0-7 Big Sky Conference) doesn't win four games.
Heading into the final game of his second season on Saturday at Stewart Stadium against Idaho State, Sears' status is once again uncertain; what is a mathematical certainty is the best the Wildcats and their coaching staff can do is half of the required four wins.
But the wording of Sears' contract isn't the reason his future at Weber State is in doubt.
Sears was 2-9 as the interim head coach in 2012 before signing the three-year extension. Any football coach facing consecutive one- or two-win seasons is on the hot seat; the contract merely removes any obligation to pay a buy-out from the decision-making process of WSU President Charles A. Wight, Vice President Norm Tarbox and Athletics Director Jerry Bovee.
It's fair to ask what considerations will go into a decision to retain or release Sears and his staff, Bovee said.
"Any coach that's up against a contract, you go through the same process," he said. "Jody has done a lot of things really well. He's been put in a tough situation and we've done nothing but try to support him and his program in moving forward. The litmus test will be, 'Are we moving forward? Will we continue to move forward?' Right now, we're focused on getting through the Idaho State game and getting him all kinds of support through that."
Bovee said the individual particulars of Sears' situation will be considered, but no concrete deadline has been established for a final decision.
"He has a three-year contract," Bovee said. "I realize there are stipulations in there that give outs to the university. I don't know that I have a timeframe to give you. Right now, I've just been focused on helping him from my chair to have all the resources and support to get through this season and then we'll get through it from there."
For his part, Sears said Thursday he deserves to be the coach next year.
"Absolutely," he said. "No question. With all the young guys we're playing, we had some injuries at key spots that really made us thin, but from the culture standpoint, how it's growing and the leadership that's been established, no question about it. These kids need stability and they need sound leadership and I think myself and the coaching staff, that's exactly what we bring to the table.
"We're raising these guys to be men of integrity and character. I think again, as we go through it, we're going to make some huge strides in the near future."
The Wildcats have lost 10 straight games since defeating Stephen F. Austin in the season opener. Wins and losses may weigh the heaviest, but other factors and questions may influence the decision to fire or keep Sears:
* The deck has been stacked against Weber State with a 2013 schedule that has seen the Wildcats face two Football Bowl Subdivision opponents and six opponents who have been in ranked in the Football Championship Subdivision Top 20. At one point, four of those FCS foes were ranked as high as the Top 10.
In what was already going to be a rebuilding season, with the first group of recruits brought in by Sears' staff with him as the head coach, the odds were against WSU defeating any of the FCS or Big Sky's top-tier teams. Does Sears have the support of enough Weber State boosters and fans to be patient with his efforts to turn around a losing program? Have the 'Cats battled hard enough in games they were overmatched in as well as in games they had a more realistic opportunity to be competitive in?
* Weber State ranks dead last (unlucky 13th) in the Big Sky Conference in total offense, total defense, scoring offense and scoring defense. In the FCS, the Wildcats rank 112th out of 122 schools in total offense, 117th in scoring offense and total defense and 119th in scoring defense.
They've also been held without an offensive touchdown four times this season. Has Weber State progressed during the tenure of Sears and his staff in spite of the setbacks?
Would a win on Saturday over Idaho State, a team the Wildcats have beaten 10 consecutive times and a team that has lost 44 straight conference road games since 2006, say anything about the direction of the WSU football program?
* Injuries have played a role in WSU's struggles last year and this year. In 2012, starting quarterback Mike Hoke played much of the season with a damaged shoulder. In this year, Weber State lost senior quarterback Jordan Adamczyk to injuries early in the season. Adamczyk entered the year as the starter, though he was already being pushed for playing time by true freshman Austin Chipoletti, who has shown significant improvement as he's gained experience this season.
Junior wide receiver Shaydon Kehano, who has shown big-play capabilities of a star when he's healthy, has missed the better part of the last two seasons by breaking his leg twice. All-Big Sky Conference linebacker Anthony Morales and fellow starting linebacker Luke King have also missed significant time with injuries this season.
Punter Tony Epperson, who has set Big Sky records for most punts and most punting yards in a single season this year, was one of Weber State's top defenders last year as a safety before an injury forced him to focus solely on punting this season.
* The Wildcats were also dealt a blow to start the year when eight players were suspended for academic reasons, some of whom were involved in an NCAA investigation into academic issues dating prior to Sears' arrival. Only three have since returned to contribute on the field after missing several games.
* Sears has had only one true recruiting class as a head coach since taking over after John L. Smith's sudden departure in April 2012. The Wildcats have more than a dozen freshmen on their two-deep depth chart. Any coaching change now will lead to more inevitable upheaval and player turnover.
Even if releasing Sears costs nothing financially, is turning Weber State's football program over to its fourth head coach since November 2011 worth the price of changing direction now?