The Naval Academy, which has not enjoyed a winning football season since 1982, today hired Charlie Weatherbie as its new coach.
Mr. Weatherbie, who resurrected a long-suffering football program at Utah State, signed a "multi-year" contract, according to a Navy official, but financial terms were not disclosed.
Mr. Weatherbie, 39, replaces George Chaump, who was fired Dec. 4 after a third straight loss to arch-rival Army. Mr. Chaump had a five-year record of 14-41 with the Midshipmen, who were manhandled by most Division I foes.
A native of Sedan, Kan., Mr. Weatherbie in 1992 inherited a Utah State team that had not made a bowl trip in 32 years. In his second season, the Aggies finished 7-5 and beat Ball State, 43-33, in the Las Vegas Bowl.
In three years at Utah State, Mr. Weatherbie posted a 15-19 record. This past season, the school cut scholarships and funding, seriously hindering Mr. Weatherbie's recruiting attempts.
"This was an institutional decision," said Navy athletic director Jack Lengyel. "Our superintendent, Adm. Charles R. Larson, made the selection based on the unanimous recommendation of our selection committee.
"One of the criteria we used was to find someone with military coaching experience. Weatherbie was an assistant at the Air Force Academy for six years (1984-1989), at a time when the Falcons won four Commander-In-Chief trophies, went to four bowl games and were ranked as high as eighth in the country."
Added Admiral Larson: "Coach Weatherbie comes to the Academy with a very impressive set of credentials, and he has my full confidence. I was also impressed with his enthusiasm for the Naval Academy and his complete understanding of our unique demands and what the Academy's primary mission is."
Before his stay at Utah State, Mr. Weatherbie was an assistant at the University of Arkansas for two seasons. He was the starting quarterback at Oklahoma State from 1974-76, and spent parts of three seasons playing professional football with the Cleveland Browns and Houston Oilers of the NFL and three Canadian Football League teams.
Mr. Weatherbie's selection came as a surprise since his name had never cropped up after Mr. Lengyel began his search for a new coach.
Among the rumored favorites were longtime Virginia assistant Tom O'Brien, who also served under George Welsh at Navy from 1975-1981, and Steve Szabo, a Navy defensive back in the early 60s who is currently on the coaching staff of the NFL expansion Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Midshipmen have struggled on the football field since the departure of Mr. Welsh for Virginia in 1982. In nine years, Mr. Welsh, a distinguished Navy quarterback in the 1950s, posted a 51-46-1 mark, going 31-15-1 in his last four years, including three bowl trips.
Since Mr. Welsh, Navy has tried Gary Tranquill (1982-1986), Elliot Uzelac (1987-1989) and Mr. Chaump (1990-1994), with Mr. Tranquill's 6-5 record in 1982 the last reminder of the Middies' glory years.