Two jobs have interested Charlie Weatherbie over the past few years as he built Utah State's football program in his first head-coaching position.
One was his alma mater, Oklahoma State. When that job opened in November and he was passed over, he was disappointed, but he soon learned the five-year contract of George Chaump at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis was not being renewed after seasons of five, one, one, four and three wins.Weatherbie, 39, was an assistant coach for six years at the Air Force Academy. He liked the kind of player the military schools attracted. He got to know Navy athletic director Jack Lengyel, and when that football job opened up five years ago, Weatherbie applied but was told Navy wanted someone with head-coaching experience.
Now he's got that - after three seasons during which the Aggies compiled a 15-19 record and won the 1993 Big West Conference co-championship and Las Vegas Bowl II - and he called Lengyel a few weeks ago to apply again.
Now he's got the Navy job.
Weatherbie was announced as Navy's new head coach at 7 a.m. MST, and he takes most of his Aggie assistants with him, though he said offensive line coach Gene McKeehan, assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas and offensive coordinator Jim Zorn, who accepted the U. of Minnesota quarterback-coaching job last week, would likely apply to succeed him at USU.
USU athletic director Chuck Bell, in Wyoming visiting his daughter, told the Deseret News by telephone late Thursday that he had granted Navy permission to talk to Weatherbie, who had several years remaining on his USU contract. "Navy has had some recent discipline problems and wanted somebody used to the academy system," Bell said.
Weatherbie, who spent Christmas at home in Oklahoma, interviewed Tuesday and Wednesday at Annapolis.
Bell said a nine-person football-coach search committee was formed last week with him as chairman in case Weatherbie left, and he said he began contacting prospects for the Aggie job Thursday evening. He said he wasn't surprised - "I knew of Navy's interest" - though he expected the call tonight rather than Thursday.
Bell said USU's search is open to all and will probably be conducted nationally. He has a small list already, he said. "We will aggressively pursue candidates," he said, adding he hopes to name a coach in two or three weeks. Bell will make the committee's recommendation to university president George Emert, who will take it to the board of trustees for final approval.
Weatherbie, in Phoenix with quarterback Matt Wells and cornerback Chuck McMillian for the NCAA Youth Education Through Sports Clinic, part of the Fiesta Bowl activities, told the Deseret News late Thursday that he was in a meeting at about 4:45 p.m. yesterday when he received an "emergency phone call." It was Lengyel offering him the Navy job. He'd already discussed it with wife Leann and their sons and decided if an offer came and met terms regarding things like assistant coaches' salaries and continued upgrading of facilities, he would accept.
"I do it with mixed emotions," said Weatherbie, whose first group of Aggie recruits will be seniors next fall. "Utah State was a great opportunity for myself and my staff. The community (and students) did an excellent job backing the program the last three years, and I want to thank everyone for their support. I'll miss the people of Cache Valley and the alumni throughout the state for the open arms and welcome we got. I'll miss the people as much as anything." He added he thanked the players recruited by predecessor Chuck Shelton for pitching in for his program. "They gave everything they had," Weatherbie said. "We were successful because of that."
He knows little about Navy's players, except that the team hasn't had a winning record in 13 years. "We'll have to change an attitude (losing), find a way to win close games," he says.
That doesn't faze him.
"I had a great experience at Air Force as an assistant. This is one of those jobs where you're not only representing the Naval Academy, you're representing the United States," said Weatherbie.
"You very seldom get an opportunity to coach that type of young man - intelligent, interested in more than just football, who can see down the road quite a ways (commitment to military service, etc.)."
Weatherbie, a deeply principled and religious man, found himself perplexed at times this season when a few players he'd recruited quit the program or were dismissed from it for behavioral problems, although numerous injuries were the main reason for a 3-8 record.
Weatherbie reportedly got the Navy job over Tom O'Brien, offensive coordinator at Virginia and a former Navy assistant, and perhaps over Stanford offensive coordinator Terry Shea, eight years a USU assistant. Four candidates were interviewed.
"This is a positive for Charlie," Bell said. "A step up. One of Charlie's dreams is to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. If you do well at Navy, that can be.
"I look at it as a compliment to Utah State," Bell added.
"For Utah State, he did a magnificent job restoring spirit and enthusiasm, and he ran a good program. Charlie helped put the Utah State football program back on the map. We wish him only the best."
Said Emert, "When Weatherbie came to Logan three years ago, he captured the hearts of the students and the entire community. We're sorry to see Weatherbie go."
Of the Aggie coaching search, Bell said, "If we can duplicate what we've been able to do with (basketball coach) Larry (Eustachy) and others, it will make a good opportunity for Charlie and Utah State."