A breakthrough season in 2017 was paramount in Jody Sears earning a multi-year contract extension as the Sacramento State football coach.
A stall-out campaign of great promise this fall resulted in his termination Monday evening.
Hornets athletic director Mark Orr relieved Sears of his coaching duties and tasked the assistant coaches to run the program until a new coach is hired.
“Ultimately,” Orr continued, “we needed a new direction, a new voice, new energy for the program for us to be able to go and compete on a national level and compete for Big Sky championships.”
Sears went 20-35 in five seasons with the Hornets, including a 7-4 showing in 2017. Fourteen Hornets starters returned this season, but injuries and an inability to slow opponents led to a 2-8 record.
Sac State lost seven consecutive games to end the season, allowing 41 or more points in all but one, a 26-14 setback to eventual Big Sky tri-champion Weber State on Nov. 3.
The Hornets went 0-7 in the Big Sky Conference after going a program-best 6-2 in 2017, when Sears was named Co-Coach of the Year in one of the top FCS leagues in the country.
Sears did not coach the 2018 season opener at Hornet Stadium against St. Francis of Illinois to serve a one-game suspension as penalty for inadvertently playing in ineligible player for one down during the 2016 season. That is not what cost Sears his job. It was a lack of progress this season, Orr said.
Sears grew up “on the back of a horse” in Washington state, the son of a rancher where boarding horses and roping steers taught him about work ethic and accountability.
Sears went 7-5 in 2014, his first at Sac State. But winning football games, especially league championships, has largely been a challenge for coaches since the program was founded in 1954. The Hornets have won four conference championships, in 1964 and ‘66 under Ray Clemons, in 1986 under Bob Mattos, and in 1995 under John Volek.
Sac State surged last season, nearly landing its first FCS playoff berth after beating UC Davis in the Causeway Classic to close the regular season.
Orr said a national search is underway. He did not list any candidates, but three logical choices to at least warrant an interview - if there is mutual interest - have deep area roots.
American River College coach Jon Osterhout was an All-America offensive lineman at Sac State in the late 1990s. He was Volek’s first scholarship signee.
Osterhout was an assistant coach for six seasons at Sac State, and in recent seasons, he has elevated ARC to a national powerhouse.
Utah offensive coordinator Troy Taylor was The Bee’s 1985 Player of the Year after quarterbacking Cordova to the Sac-Joaquin Section’s first 14-0 season. Taylor, as co-coach alongside Kris Richardson, helped elevate Folsom High School this decade with record-setting creative offenses.
Taylor was the offensive coordinator at Eastern Washington in 2017 before being hired at Utah, which just won the Pac-12 South Division at 9-3.
Angus McClure was an offensive lineman for Sac State in the 1990s who later worked seven seasons as an assistant coach for the program, ending in 2003. McClure was an assistant coach at UCLA for 11 seasons and just finished his first season at Nevada as assistant head coach.
Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson: firstname.lastname@example.org, @SacBee_JoeD, sacbee.com/high-school.