Weber State football: John L. Smith will be Wildcats' new head coach

Published: Monday, Dec. 5 2011 5:35 p.m. MST

OGDEN — John L. Smith, who played football at Weber State more than 40 years ago before embarking on a highly successful coaching career, will be introduced as the Wildcats' new head coach Tuesday.

Smith, currently the special teams coach at the University of Arkansas, has previously held head coaching positions at the University of Idaho (1989-94), Utah State (1995-97), Louisville (1998-2002) and Michigan State (2003-06), compiling a career record of 132-86 as a head coach.

He will be introduced as the ninth head coach in the history of Weber State's program in a press conference Tuesday at 11 a.m. on the third floor of WSU's Stewart Stadium Sky Suites. Smith replaces Ron McBride, who announced his retirement in November after seven seasons at WSU helm.

Smith, a native of Idaho who turned 63 last month, played linebacker and quarterback for then-Weber State College coach Sark Arslanian from 1967-70 and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Wildcats in 1971.

He spent 17 seasons as an assistant coach, with stops at the University of Montana (1972-76), Nevada-Reno (1977-81), where he was the defensive coordinator, and as the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach under head coach Dennis Erickson for seven seasons in all at Idaho (1982-85), Wyoming (1986) and Washington State (1987-88) before becoming Idaho's head coach in 1989.

Smith's Idaho teams went 53-21 (.716) over his six seasons as head coach there, winning two Big Sky Conference championships and reaching the Division I-AA playoffs five times. The Vandals advanced as far as the national semifinals in 1993. He coached two winners of Walter Payton Award — the I-AA equivalent of the Heisman Trophy — at Idaho in quarterbacks John Friesz and Doug Nussmeier, and his 53 wins are the most in school history.

Smith became Utah State's head coach following the 1994 season and spent three seasons in Cache Valley, guiding the Aggies to a 16-18 overall record, a share of two Big West Conference titles and their last bowl berth — the 1997 Humanitarian Bowl — before this year.

After that, Smith left Logan in 1997 to coach at Louisville, where his teams went 41-21 (.661) over five seasons, which included back-to-back Conference USA championships, a 25-9 league record and five consecutive bowl appearances.

Following the 2002 season, he was hired at Michigan State, where his teams went 22-26 over four seasons and 12-20 in Big Ten Conference play. The Spartans earned just one bowl invitation, that coming in his first season (2003), when he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year. But they were just 14-21 over his last three years there before he was fired.

In his 18 years as a head coach, he has taken his teams to 12 postseason appearances and is one of only 18 head coaches in college football history to take three difference teams to bowl games.

Smith is also the uncle of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, a former University of Utah star.

email: rhollis@desnews.com

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