Home is where the heart is, and that’s where Jody Sears will continue to be.
Sacramento State signed its football coach to a multiyear extension Wednesday, a week after Sears was named Big Sky Conference Co-Coach of the Year, building on what has been a momentous season for the Hornets.
The school made it official Thursday morning.
“Very, very happy, very, very humbled,” Sears said. “I’m very proud of the work the guys have put in. It’s a staff/player reward. It’s so refreshing to get so much support from President Robert S. Nelsen and (athletic director) Mark Orr. We’re building something here.”
The extension is “a testament to the leadership” of Sears and his staff, Orr said.
“He created a plan for the program, stuck to it and the team was able to reap the rewards this season,” he said. “We are all excited for what is to come for Hornet football.”
This is what Sears wanted all along: stability and a chance to nurture a roster he and his staff recruited. During Sears’ first season in 2013, the Hornets won seven games, followed by consecutive two-win seasons. In the final year of his contract, a historic bounce-back campaign unfolded.
Sac State went 7-4 overall and 6-2 in the Big Sky, including a 54-27 rout of co-champion Southern Utah and a season-ending 52-47 triumph of rival UC Davis in the 64th Causeway Classic. Sac State wasn’t able to secure a Football Championship Subdivision playoff bid, something Sears thought was realistic, but will now focus that drive for next season.
This was the first time Sac State had accumulated seven victories against Division I competition and the first time the program earned six Big Sky wins.
A year after enduring injuries and defensive lapses, the resurgent Hornets went 5-1 at home, scoring 50-plus points five times. Sac State expects to return all but four starters and should be preseason nationally ranked.
Among Sac State’s returners will be quarterback Kevin Thomson, who passed for 1,828 yards and 17 touchdowns, running backs BJ Perkinson and Elijah Dotson, linebacker Malcolm Thomas and defensive backs Dre Terrell and Mister Harriel.
Entering the season, Sears knew his team had to produce or he was likely headed for the exit.
Sears said he has become as invested in his players as they have in him. He has been in the family homes of recruits, and he treats the student-athletes with equal parts firm-hand discipline and open hugs. He warns of the fallout cautions of players running afoul of the law, or veering off academically. Neither has been an issue.
Sac State players overwhelmingly pushed to have Sears and the staff extended, including defensive back Dre Terrell saying, “He’s our coach, and we want him here.”
“People say ‘family’ a lot, but it’s in the actions when you say that, the daily happenings, the follow-ups, making sure kids are on track academically, that they’re held accountable, being good people,” Sears said. “College athletics and college football is not easy. There are a lot of demands on their time, and distractions like social media. We tell them that we need face-to-face communication, that they need to take care of business, be on time, arrive early, leave late, be good students.
“It’s truly raising a family. I talk to these kids all the time, and there’s no advice I don’t give them that I wouldn’t give my own kids.”
Sears gained his work ethic from growing up on a farm in Washington state, where he said he was “born on the back of a saddle.”
The same can be said of his wife, Molly. She is a farmer’s daughter from Idaho, and she played basketball at Walla Walla Community College and at Whitworth University in Spokane.
Sears’ anxiety and joy are hers, too. Married 20 years, they are the parents of five.
“She gets it, a true competitor who still loves to run and work out, and she’s a great coach’s wife,” Sears said, adding of expectations, “Someone said the other day that we’ll have a target on our backs. Heck with that. We’ve had a target on our back. We’ve been the (hunted) the last couple of years. So much of the team is coming back, and we get back to work and get after it.”