Tom Smart, Deseret News
Whenever you see the words "interim head coach" and "2-9 record" in the same sentence, it's almost always good for a guaranteed trip to the unemployment line.
But when it comes to the Weber State University football program, well, it ain't necessarily so.
Yes, the Wildcats struggled through a disappointing 2-9 campaign under interim head coach Jody Sears. But by the end of the season, WSU athletic director Jerry Bovee had seen enough progress and positive signs in the program to give Sears a new three-year contract as the Wildcats' head coach.
And the word "interim" is no longer part of Sears' job title.
Bovee would be the first one to tell you this was a difficult decision to make. He expected to catch some flak from fans for bringing back a guy who only won two games in his first season as a head coach — and Bovee definitely did catch some. But he estimated that the positive support for keeping Sears outweighed the negative comments and input by about an 8-1 margin.
"A lot of people really like him," Bovee said of Sears. "He's a good guy who was thrown into a tough situation, and he's trying to build some stability and some character in the program and people want to give him a chance.
"I received more positive support than I expected. I think, overall, I've been pleased with the response."
Bovee was impressed with the way the Wildcats were competitive in virtually every game they played and maintained a never-give-up attitude throughout the entire season, even after the losses started piling up.
He also admires Sears' tremendous integrity and the classy way the interim coach handled things after being thrust into a very challenging position when the guy who brought him here to be the Wildcats' defensive coordinator, John L. Smith, bolted abruptly from his alma mater, Weber State, in April to take the high-profile job at Arkansas.
The Razorbacks, by the way, began the season ranked in the top 10 nationally and sputtered through a frustrating 4-8 season of their own.
Sears was also impressed and appreciative of the don't-ever-quit attitude that his team possessed this season. It resulted in a rousing road win over traditional Big Sky Conference rival Idaho State in the season-finale last weekend, giving the Wildcats two road wins in their last four games.
"Despite the losses, I felt really good about things because the kids were working their tails off all year and they didn't waver one time," he said. "They were frustrated, as we all were, but the positive feeling and the look in their eyes on that sideline at Idaho State told me how much it meant to them.
"There are no excuses for a 2-9 season, and we didn't try to make any excuses for it. We don't accept that at all. Coach Mac (Ron McBride) set a pretty good precedent here, winning a conference championship and going to playoffs in back-to-back years."
Sears' goal is certainly to re-establish that type of success in the program as soon as possible, but he also wants to help build his players into being better men who will be successful in their lives away from football.
"Ultimately, that's our job," he said. "We've got to raise these young men up, teach them how to be successful not just on the football field but off the football field, too. We've got to teach them how to not only be champions in football but champions in the classroom and in the community, serving people.
"We want them to be people of high character and integrity, and we want to teach them those values and principles and hope that they will show up on the football field as well. If you're not living your life the right way off the field, it's going to show up on the field.
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