If you look at our program, historically we're really not much more than a .500 football program. That's been going on a long time, and we've either got to accept that or we've got to change the mindset and the approach that we take to football. —WSU athletic director Jerry Bovee
OGDEN — Weber State mercifully closed out its ugly clunker of a 2013 collegiate football campaign Saturday with its seemingly annual victory over traditional Big Sky Conference rival Idaho State.
And with the win, the Wildcats may have very well saved head coach Jody Sears' job for at least another year.
Yes, despite their dismal 2-10 record, which included victories in their first and last games of the season — and 10 straight losses in between — it appears that nice-guy Sears will likely return to coach the 'Cats again in 2014.
That means he'll live to coach another day even though he signed a three-year contract last year stipulating that if his team didn't win at least four games this season, the school could cut him loose without having to compensate him for the final two years of his deal.
Sure, WSU athletic director Jerry Bovee is as bothered and bummed out by the Wildcats' lousy won-loss record as any other person with Purple Pride. But it seems he has seen enough positive signs under Sears' two-year regime with the program to bring the guy back for another shot at respectability next season.
"Obviously, with where we are in wins and losses, nobody is excited about that," Bovee said. "As far as where we're at now, I'm not happy and I don't think anybody would be. Our coaches aren't; our players aren't; and our administration isn't, either.
"But I do feel like the pieces are in place for us to make great strides forward. Opening up that new indoor facility (last month) will be a huge recruiting tool for us. So even though success on field hasn't materialized yet, there's a lot of excitement because of the potential that we have here. I feel that we have the facilities and resources to compete at the highest level of Big Sky football, and that's our goal.
"And if you can win the Big Sky championship, you've got a great chance at competing for the national championship, which we've seen other members of the Big Sky do over the years," he said.
That goal, however, still appears a long, long way off at this juncture.
After all, the Wildcats went 2-9 last season after Sears stepped in as head coach when John L. Smith abruptly left shortly after the spring game to take the head coaching job at high-profile (and much higher-paying) Arkansas.
The Wildcats were expected to struggle, and they did. This year, they were expected to be better — but they weren't.
"If you look at our program, historically we're really not much more than a .500 football program,” Bovee said. "That's been going on a long time, and we've either got to accept that or we've got to change the mindset and the approach that we take to football.
"It may hurt for a while, but we can do that. We're not that far off from (challenging for a championship), and I'm confident it will be done."
Bovee was asked what went wrong this year, when the Wildcats opened the season with a 50-40 win over Stephen F. Austin, then suffered back-to-back losses to Utah and Utah State by a combined (and highly embarrassing) 140-13.
In their other eight defeats, the 'Cats were truly competitive only once — in a 27-21 loss to Southern Utah — while some of their other setbacks came by one-sided scores like 47-0, 43-6 and 42-6. WSU's other losses were by 18, 21, 22 and 28 points.
Bovee said, "It was a myriad of things" that went wrong, including the loss of their starting quarterback three weeks into the season.
"We had some key injuries, coupled with the fact that we had some issues with the NCAA that kept nine players off the field, some of them being key players for us," he said. "That issue, coupled with some injuries and the coaching changes certainly haven't helped, either.
"We've had some guys leave the program, too, and this is one of those years where we've had a substantial number of freshmen and sophomores, particularly freshmen, who are playing key minutes for this team."
But like it or not, it's a bottom-line business, and that bottom line is winning. Or at least winning more games than you lose, something Weber State hasn't been able to do lately. Heck, these last two years, the 'Cats haven't even been close.
"As I talk to Jody, we're not progressing as fast as he thought we would from a wins-and-losses standpoint," Bovee said. "Last year we only won two games, and in a lot of those games we've lost this year, we haven't been competitive.
"I do like the basis of his approach. He's trying to build a character-based program and he's always positive. No, we haven't seen the progress we thought we'd see, but from what I have seen, I think he's very capable.
"Of course, there are other factors that are always involved, with the administration and our fan base, but I do have confidence in Jody, absolutely," Bovee said.
So, does that mean Sears will be back next season?
"I'm not ready to make that decision,” Bovee said. "I'm still in the assessment process. Nobody wanted this to work more than I do. It was a bad situation when John L. left and we didn't have a lot of options.
"I do think Jody's a great coach. But in the next few days, we have to sit down and decide: Are we making the progress that we need to make in the program? At the end of it all, do you have confidence that this is gonna work? Are we moving forward? We've got to make some hard decisions and stay the course. (Sears) understood that he was gonna have to make some concessions when he got the job, and there are a lot of coaches who wouldn't have wanted to step into that situation.
"We have a new university president, and he wants quality people in the program and he wants them to go to class,” Bovee said. "But wins and losses certainly have their place. I think you can win with integrity and you can do it the right way. ... I think he's done an outstanding job to keep the integrity of the program in place. He has brought in a lot of kids with high integrity and, as far as building the program that way, I give him high marks. He's done it with integrity; he's done it the right way. From that aspect, he has been outstanding."
And if Sears does indeed return, the folks at WSU have to hope that, someday soon, the old "nice-guys-finish-last" cliche will no longer apply to the guy they've put in charge of their football program.