OGDEN, Utah -- John L. Smith is coming home. Weber State University Athletics announced the hiring of Smith as the new head football coach Tuesday. Smith is a veteran coach who returns to his alma mater where he played football for the Wildcats.
Smith, 63, brings 40 years of coaching experience to Weber State, including 18 years as a head coach at four different schools. As a head coach he has posted a 132-86 overall record and produced six conference champions. Twelve of his 18 teams participated in postseason play. Smith is one of 19 coaches in collegiate football history to take three different schools to a bowl game.
“I am thrilled to come back to Weber State and I am grateful for this tremendous opportunity to coach the Wildcats,” Smith said. “There are so many strong things in place at Weber State; I just look forward to adding to them and building on the success of the Wildcat football program.”
Smith played linebacker and quarterback at Weber State from 1968-71. He was named the Big Sky scholar-athlete as a senior and was an Academic All-American. He becomes the ninth head coach in Weber State history.
“We are very excited to bring John L. Smith back to Weber State as our new head football coach,” said Weber State Director of Athletics Jerry Bovee. “He brings a great deal of coaching experience to Weber State and he will continue to build on the success of our football program.”
After graduating from Weber State with a degree in physical education with a minor in math in 1971, Smith began his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Wildcats in the spring of 1972. From there he remained in the Big Sky and coached at the University of Montana from 1972-76. He earned a master’s of science degree in physical education from Montana in 1974.
He then moved to Big Sky member Nevada from 1977-81 where he was the defensive coordinator for the Wolfpack. In 1980 Nevada led the nation in defense, scoring defense and rushing defense.
Smith then moved on for his first of two stints at the University of Idaho, another Big Sky school. He served as the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the Vandals from 1982-85, under head coach Dennis Erickson. He then followed Erickson to Washington State where he again was the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach from 1987-88.
He then returned to the University of Idaho where he became the head coach of the Vandals in 1989. Smith spent six seasons as head coach and became the winningest coach in school history leading the Vandals to a 53-21 record that included a 34-11 Big Sky Conference record and five postseason appearances.
From there he returned to Utah where he spent three seasons as head coach at Utah State. He posted a 16-18 overall record for USU, a program that only produced two winning seasons in the previous 15 years. Smith led the Aggies to consecutive Big West crowns in 1996 and 1997. In 1997 Utah State earned a trip to the Humanitarian Bowl marking the second bowl appearance for the school since 1961.
Following his stint with the Aggies Smith moved to the University of Louisville where he spent five seasons (1998-2002) with the Cardinals and led then to unprecedented success. He posted a 41-21 record including five straight bowl appearances and back-to-back Conference USA titles in 2000 and 2001. The five bowl trips equaled the number of postseason appearances Louisville had made prior to his arrival and the five consecutive winning seasons marked a first for the program.
From Louisville Smith moved to Michigan State where he spent four seasons as head coach of the Spartans, leading them to a 22-26 overall record. He was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2003 after posting the most wins by a first-year head coach in MSU history with an 8-4 record. During his time in East Lansing, 41 of his student-athletes earned Academic All-Big Ten honors.
He has spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Arkansas where he has coached the Razorback special teams and inside linebackers.
Smith replaces Ron McBride at Weber State who retired after seven seasons as head coach of the Wildcats and 20 years as a Division I head coach.
Smith is a native of Idaho Falls, Idaho where he lettered football, basketball, and track at Bonneville High School. He is married to the former Diana Flora and they are the parents of three children, Nicholas, Kayse and Sam. Smith is the uncle to former University of Utah and current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.