Matt Gade, Deseret News
OGDEN — As it turned out, a season-ending victory wasn't enough to save Jody Sears' job as Weber State University's head football coach after all.
Sears, who took hold of the Wildcats' reins following John L. Smith's abrupt departure as head coach in 2012, was let go Tuesday by Weber State director of athletics Jerry Bovee, who said WSU officials had not seen enough progress in the program during Sears' first two seasons to warrant bringing him back in 2014.
"Jody came into a very difficult situation and he was able to do a lot of things that built the character and integrity of the football program," Bovee said of Sears, who was originally hired to serve as Smith's defensive coordinator but was suddenly thrust into the head coaching position when Smith bolted from his alma mater after little more than four months on the job. "This situation has been much more difficult than anyone thought it would be. Heck, maybe the situation he was put in might be too difficult for anyone to get through.
"But in the end, this is a results-based business we're in and sometimes we have to make tough decisions that are necessary to move the program forward.
"We appreciate what he did for our football team but, in the end, we haven’t seen the progress in the program that we wanted and feel at this time it is best to make a change in our leadership," he said.
After Sears served as interim head coach during the 2012 season, Bovee gave him a new three-year contract last December with the stipulation that, if the Wildcats did not win at least four games, Sears could be dismissed without any further compensation on his contract.
”I fought for this staff to be retained last year, because I believed in them," said Bovee. "But now we have to ask ourselves, 'Where are we now?' We need to sit down and map out what are the pros and cons of where we are and where we're going and decide, 'Do we need a change of leadership?'
"I don't think we've ever been able to get out from under the cloud of having our head coach (Smith) leave two days after the spring game (in April 2012). We need to be over that now and move on."
Under Sears, who became WSU's interim head coach when Smith suddenly left for the greener pastures of the University of Arkansas, the 'Cats went 2-9 in his first season last year.
The Wildcats went 2-10 overall and 1-7 in conference play this year, winning their season opener followed by 10 consecutive losses before closing out the campaign with a victory over traditional Big Sky Conference rival Idaho State last Saturday. The Wildcats wound up 4-19 overall in Sears' two seasons, including a 3-13 record in Big Sky play.
"If you're looking at it as Joe Fan, just looking at it from a fan's perspective and you look at the record, it's an easy decision to make," Bovee said. "But if you're on the inside and you're going into battle with these people every day, it's a difficult decision. Jody Sears is a good man.
"We're obviously disappointed," Bovee said. "We felt like we were building something, but in the end, to be 4-19 with no guarantee of where that was going, it was just a decision that we made to go in another direction."
The Weber State AD said that a national search for the Wildcats' new head coach will begin immediately.
"We're looking for someone who wants to be here with the resources and the facilities and all that we offer here," he said, "someone that understands a little about Weber State, the program's history and the community and how to recruit here, someone who wants in-state kids in our program, and someone who can show us their vision of how the program should be. ... We're proud of what we have here.
"If you go around the Big Sky Conference, what we have here compares favorably with the facilities and the budget of any other program in our league. Do I feel like we can compete? Absolutely, or we wouldn't be in this business in the first place. And I think there are lot of things here that are pretty special and are attractive to coaching candidates.
"It's time for this program to take a step forward and progress," he said. "I know there is plenty of interest in what we have to offer here. We're not going to rush into this; we're going to take the amount of time that we need to do it right."
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