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Ron McBride, a University of Utah assistant for eight seasons, returned to Salt Lake Thursday morning, this time to take over as the school's 15th head football coach.

McBride, 50, was notified by school officials Wednesday afternoon that he would succeed Jim Fassel, who was fired Nov. 28. The runner-up was Washington assistant Keith Gilbertson.A press conference was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

"It's the chance of a lifetime. It's a great opportunity. And there's no place in the country I'd rather be than the University of Utah," said McBride.

McBride has been serving as assistant head coach at Arizona the past three seasons.

McBride began his association with Utah in 1977 when he was hired as part of Wayne Howard's staff. He worked at Utah through the 1982 season before leaving for Wisconsin, where he continued as an offensive line coach. He returned to the Utes in 1985 to coach under Fassel for two years.

McBride, who has coached collegiately for 26 years, has had a losing record only three times. Utah went 3-8 in 1977 under Howard, 5-6 in 1982 under Chuck Stobart and 2-9 in 1986 under Fassel.

McBride's offensive lines were noted for being physical and fundamentally sound.

He was credited with developing such players as Darryl Haley, who went on to play for the New England Patriots; Dean Miraldi, Denver Broncos; Wayne Jones and Dan Dubiago, Los Angeles Express; and Steve Folsom, Baltimore Stars. In 1985 he coached Kevin Reach, who became an all-WAC selection.

He also coached Wisconsin All-America Jeff Dellenback, who was selected Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year.

McBride attended South Gate High School in Southern California, where he was a football and baseball letterman. He was a starting linebacker for San Jose State, graduating in 1964.

He had prep coaching experience at Piedmont High in San Jose, and coached at Long Beach State, Cal-Riverside and Gavilan Junior College.

McBride was a candidate for the Ute post in 1982 when Chuck Stobart was named, and also in 1985 when Jim Fassel was hired.

"The first time I drove up here from L.A. to be with Wayne (Howard), I said, `Hey, this is a beautiful place,"' said McBride. "That's when I thought this is a place I'd like to stay at."

McBride has a reputation for fine recruiting and developing a close relationship with players. However, he also is noted for producing tough players, which was a major factor in his being hired.

Utah's football teams have been among the worst in the nation defensively, and in recent years the offensive line has also been a weak spot.

"The thing what I'm trying to do is to bring a different approach to Utah football," said McBride. "It will be one where we're going to build a defense first, and it's going to be more of a smash-mouth type organization. We will have a strong work ethic and I think it will be a real physical football team.

"You can do everything you want in coaching, but you've got to have great commitment. You've got to get them to execute what you want. I want to do develop every player to fullest extent."

McBride said he will use a multiple offense, but stay primarily with the passing game. He said he expects improvements in defense and the running game.

"There's a lot of holes to fill. You sit down first and analyze everyone in the program and see what you're starting with," said McBride.

Concerning the offense, he said, "We're going to stay in the same framework of what we have had. Utah has good U-backs and tight ends and good quarterbacks. We'll try to build a similar attack, except the running game will be a lot better so we can take the pressure off the passer. We're not going to want to throw on every down.

"It's a job I've always wanted," continued McBride. "I had three head coaching job opportunities (UNLV, Wisconsin and Utah) and I only went after one - the Utah job."