Wildcats' new coach must move program forward to remove "interim" label.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Ogden • Jody Sears, who grew up toiling on the rolling farmlands of the Palouse in southeastern Washington, enjoyed a passion for roping calves.
He had a passion for football, too. Football also offered more opportunities.
With nearly 18 years of coaching experience at his back, Sears came to Weber State with the thought of one day of becoming a head coach.
The transitory nature of his profession expedited those plans with the suddenness of a calf breaking free of its stall.
Now, interim head coach Jody Sears' first job is to keep his program moving forward. That his team must perform to remove the interim label is part of the process.
"Oh, sure, I'm worried about the outcome," Sears said. "The title, to me, it's about the team. Interim, that's not my focus. If I spend all my time worried about that, I'll miss out on all the little steps, the daily details. If I'm diligent about work, everything else will take care of itself."
It was the message of calm Sears shared with his fellow football assistants even as WSU athletic director Jerry Bovee searched for a replacement for suddenly vacant head coaching position.
Between April 24 and 26, from the announcement by John L. Smith, hired Dec. 6, that he was leaving for Arkansas and the naming of Sears as interim head coach, the mood that permeated WSU's athletic offices swayed from concern to outright distress.
As Bovee put it, "It was a punch to the gut."
Although several coaches expressed interest in the position, it took two days for Bovee to name Sears as the next Weber State head coach.
"To be frank, we were all relieved we had jobs," said WSU's offensive coordinator Matt Hammer, one of those interested in Smith's job. "If someone [outside the department] had gotten the head job, well, chasing a job in April is brutal.
"Everything was going to be intact."
The announcement was good for the staff, as well as recruits and finally, but most importantly the families who understand the transitory nature of the coaching profession.
"It was a moment of, 'Wow,' " said Sears' wife of 15 years, Molly, also a Palouse farm girl. "We just went from a moment of being in a secure spot. We had nights where we wondered if this is what we were supposed to do. You never know if a job will come down the pipe. It doesn't happen for many families.
"We hoped that the staff would stay intact, that we would stay at Weber State and continue."
From the outset, Bovee, who hired Smith to replace retiring Ron McBride, sought continuity. In addition, he had to take a calculated chance.
What Sears offered was a host of coaching experiences at institutions from West Point, Iowa State and Washington State.
"He was the one who had all the skills to keep the boat floating," Bovee said.
Sears was looking for a job the day Smith called. Sears was part of Paul Wulff's staff at Washington State, Sears' alta mater where he had walked on as a receiver in 1989.
In an interesting sidenote, Smith thought Sears was an offensive coach. Following a nine-hour drive from Pullman and a four-hour lunch, Sears convinced Smith their philosophies were the same.
Sears joined the WSU staff in time for spring football.
"I told Jerry, 'Jody is a great coach but a better person,' " Hammer said. "Whatever we do, we just need to keep moving forward."
Sears is downright effusive about his staff, team and the family atmosphere at Weber State. The Sears family, which includes five children, has already discovered the joys of fishing and recreation advantages of nearby Pine View Reservoir.
The idea now is to keep the job full time.
A successful Big Sky Conference campaign would help. It also helps that the Weber State cupboard isn't bare, and, the season-opening games at Fresno State and BYU notwithstanding, there is good reason for success.
"It will be more than wins and losses," said Bovee about what it would take to remove the interim tag from Sears' name. There is the overall health and vitality of the program. Success on the field is part of that.
"I like what I'm seeing. All the resources are there. He is what you see, and that's another thing people will be endeared to. He's about team and puts the ego into the group."
Jody Sears timeline
1994-1996 • Iowa State (graduate assistant)
1998 • St. Ambrose (defensive coordinator)
2000-2002 • Army (cornerbacks coach)
2003-2007 • Eastern Washington (defensive coordinator)
2008-2011 • Washington State (defensive coordinator)
2012 • Weber State (defensive coordinator/head coach)