The question had to be asked.
Is Weber State’s football program in trouble?
Not just “trouble” as in, after Saturday’s home loss to Portland State the Wildcats have exactly two victories at Stewart Stadium in their past 11 games there.
Not just “trouble” as in, after Saturday’s game the ‘Cats remained winless this year and just 2-27 over the past two-plus seasons.
No, the question had to be asked: Is Weber State in danger of losing football altogether?
The way I see it, it’s actually a pretty silly question. No, Weber State’s football program isn’t in danger of being eliminated. The school has too much invested in it. From stadium improvements and renovations, to the practice field and to the new $4.5 million indoor facility, there’s no way anyone’s pulling the plug on Wildcat football.
Nope, no way.
But I’ve been asked that question and I’ve heard other rumblings and grumblings about WSU’s football failures over the past few seasons. It has now been 20 years since the school considered dropping football and folks around here naturally wonder if it will be threatened again.
So I went to athletic director Jerry Bovee for an answer, I wanted to get his perspective on it.
“It will get better. It’s not going anywhere,” he said. “I’m gonna leave this place before football leaves, I can guarantee you that.”
Now, I’m not as stupid as I look. I know that in the world of college athletics, guarantees mean nothing, really. Things change quickly, for good or for bad. And the truth of it is, if Weber State really were to lose it’s football program, Bovee would leave before it fell because he’d very likely be relieved of his duties.
But having noted that, he’s dead-on right about his football program. It’s not going anywhere, so let’s just get that out of the way right now.
Simply, Weber State’s football program isn’t going anywhere for two specific reasons. No. 1, the school has too much invested in facilities and there is an overriding belief that football is far too important to the school. No. 2, after the coach John L. Smith debacle and two seasons under Jody Sears, the program is slowly starting to recover. First-year head coach Jay Hill is the right man for the job, although it’s doubtful he had any idea his first year was going to be such a challenge.
But the former U of U player and assistant, who learned under coaches like Ron McBride, Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham understands the importance of a solid culture.
“In know there are some (asking), ‘Is this coach going to make it?’ Absolutely he’s going to make it because he’s a winner,” Bovee said. “But we didn’t go into this thinking that we were going to make it overnight. It’s obvious that churning coaches is not the answer, so for those out there that are thinking ‘Oh, it’s time to reset.’ Absolutely not. He’s got a four-year contract and he’s going to see it through.”
For his part, Hill has high expectations but appears, also, to be realistic.
“I expects us to be good in the future,” he said. “I expect us to be good now.”
“I expect us to be competing for Big Sky championships, I expect us to be competing for national championships,” he added. “If I didn’t have that expectation, I wouldn’t be here.”
Look, I’m not pretending Weber State football isn’t in the dump right now. Clearly, it’s in a bad place but it would be silly to believe the program might soon go away or that digging out won’t take a little time.
Nobody associated with the school or its football program is happy about where it is right now, most of all Bovee, Hill or his players.
Following Saturday’s 30-17 loss to Portland State, senior running back Bo Bolen was so overcome with emotion, he wept.
“Losing sucks,” he said.
No doubt. But two decades after almost dropping it, Weber State football isn’t going anywhere, even in the wake of a few terrible seasons.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo