Smith a finalist for Colorado coaching post

Rob Smith’s retirement from football might be coming to an end.

The former Western Washington University football coach is one of four finalists for the head coaching job at Colorado State University-Pueblo, according to ThunderWolves athletic director Joe Folda.

Smith, 49, resigned as the Vikings’ football coach following the 2005 season after 17 years heading the program. In February he became Western’s Athletic Outreach Officer for University Advancement before stepping down from that position last month.

“Rob is one of our finalists,” Folda said in a phone interview. “We think he brings a proven track record and did a great job at WWU. He’s a veteran coach that would bring a lot of experience to our program.”

The position would present a unique challenge for Smith. CSU-Pueblo voted to reinstate football in May after a 22-year hiatus. The new coach would be starting the program from nothing and building toward play in the 2008 season.

The school would like to make its decision by the beginning of July, Folda said. The ThunderWolves are an NCAA Division II program competing in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

Smith could not be reached for comment.

“It’s a huge challenge for whoever comes in,” Folda said.

Smith was one of more than 100 applicants interested in the job, Folda said.

The finalists for the position are former UCLA assistant coach John Wristen, Henderson State University coach Scott Maxfield, and Denver-area high school coach Kevin Koontz, Folda said.

Smith guided the Vikings to a 109-62-1 record during his 17 years as head coach, helping Western to five national playoff berths. He retired with the third most wins among collegiate coaches in the state of Washington.Smith cited several reasons for stepping away from football, including wanting to spend more time with his family and trying a different profession. After his last game at Western, though, on Nov. 5, 2005, it was clear football was still close to his heart.

“I’m leaving with mixed emotions,” Smith said. “I hope that I haven’t coached my last game. Whether I’m back in coaching next year or a few years down the road, I hope this isn’t my last game. It’s who I am.”