Entering his 17th year as head coach, the second-longest tenure in school history, Rob Smith already has established himself as the most successful football coach to walk the sidelines for Western and is the dean of college gridiron mentors in the northwest.
His 105 victories rank first among active collegiate head coaches in the state of Washington and are third all-time. His victory total and .651 winning percentage (105-56-1) are the best in school history. Western has won six league championships in the last 10 seasons of Smith's tenure after winning just seven in nearly 90 years of competition prior to his arrival.
Smith came to Western as an assistant in 1987, joining a program that was coming off its ninth consecutive losing season. Two years later, he became head coach, leading the 1989 Vikings to a 7-2 record, their best in 48 years, and the first national ranking in school history. Since then, Western has gone from success to success.
Under Smith, Western enjoyed a string of 12 non-losing seasons. The previous school best was six.
The Vikings had never made a national playoff appearance prior to Smith's arrival, they've made five since, reaching the NAIA Division II Championship game in 1996 and making their first-ever NCAA Division II appearance in 1999 in Western's second season of full NCAA membership.
In 1995, Western posted its first undefeated regular season (9-0) since 1938, and spent the last five weeks of the season as the No.1-ranked team in NAIA II. The Vikings have won at least seven games under Smith eight times. Before that, the feat had been accomplished just five times, the last in 1976.
With success has come recognition. Smith was Columbia Football Association Coach of the Year in 1989, 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2000, and was the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2003. He was AFCA College Division Region V Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1996, and shares the honor of Western's Football Coach of the Century with Charles Lappenbusch.
The Smith athletic history is a long one. A graduate of Hoquiam High School, where he scored a state-leading 20 touchdowns and had 11 interceptions as a senior and won a state hurdles championship, Smith was named a member of the Grizzlies' Roll of Honor, joining his father and grandfather on the list.
Smith then attended the University of Washington, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1981, lettering three years as a fullback and playing in the 1978 Rose Bowl. He was the first Husky coached by Don James to become a collegiate head coach.
Prior to coming to Western, Smith spent five years as an assistant coach at Renton High School. He also was head track coach there for two years and an assistant in baseball for three seasons.
The 47-year old Smith and his wife Wendy (formerly Larion) have two children, daughter Alison 11 and son Jared 7.
WWU MILESTONES DURING SMITH COACHING ERA
1989 Oct. 16 Western ranked among Top 25 in NAIA Division II National Poll for first time in school history
1992 Nov. 21 Vikings make first NAIA Division II National Playoff appearance, lose 26-0 at Linfield OR
1994 Nov. 19 Western wins first national playoff game, defeating No.1-rated Linfield, 21-2
1995 Oct. 16 Vikings ranked No.1 in regular-season national poll for first time in school history, and remain there for final five weeks.
Western wins its first league title since 1971
Vikings enjoy first undefeated regular season since 1938
1996 Nov. 14 Western sets school record for season victories (11), winning 28-21 at Findlay OH in national semifinal playoff game
Vikings make first national championship game appearance, losing 47-25 to Sioux Falls SD on Dec. 21 at Savannah, Tenn.
Western wins second straight Columbia Football Association championship - school's first back-to-back titles since 1923-24
1999 Nov.20 Western makes first NCAA II national playoff appearance, losing 27-24 in overtime at Northeastern State OK
2001 Nov. 3 Vikings win inaugural Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship and third straight league title
2003 Nov. 15 Western wins GNAC title, its fourth league championship in five years and the sixth in nine seasons
The Smith Years ...
1989 7 - 2 - 0 .778 1990 3 - 6 - 0 .333 1991 5 - 3 - 1 .625 1992 7 - 3 - 0 .700 1993 6 - 3 - 0 .667 1994 8 - 3 - 0 .727 1995 9 - 1 - 0 .900 1996 11 - 2 - 0 .846 1997 5 - 5 - 0 .500 1998 5 - 5 - 0 .500 1999 8 - 3 - 0 .727 2000 7 - 3 - 0 .700 2001 8 - 3 - 0 .727 2002 6 - 4 - 0 .600 2003 4 - 6 - 0 .400 2004 6 - 4 - 0 .600 105-56 - 1 .651
WESTERN AT HOME UNDER COACH SMITH
Western is 61-19 (.763) at home during Rob Smith's first 15 seasons as head coach.
1989 3-1 1990 2-3 1991 3-1 1992 4-1 1993 4-1 1994 3-1 1995 6-1 1996 6-0 1997 3-2 1998 2-2 1999 5-0 2000 6-1 2001 4-1 2002 3-2 2003 3-1 2004 4-1
Dean of northwest college gridiron coaches ... Ranks first in victories among active head coaches in state of Washington and third all-time ... In 17th year as head coach at Western after being Viking assistant for two seasons ... Has posted 105-56-1 record and 65.1 winning percentage ... Victory total and win percentage are best in school history ... Chair of American Football Coaches Association Division II All-America Selection Committee for District 9 ... Has directed Western to five national playoff appearances, including three straight from 1994-96, and school's first national title game appearance (NAIA Division II) for any sport in 1996 ... Guided Vikings to conference championships six of last 10 seasons (1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003) ... Has had eight seasons with seven or more wins, the school having just five prior to his tenure ... Great Northwest Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2003 and Columbia Football Association Coach of the Year in 1989, 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2000 ... American Football Coaches Association College Division Region V Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1996 ... Named Western's Co-Coach of the Century (1900-99) in football along with Charles Lappenbusch ... In 1999, guided Vikings to first NCAA Division II national playoff appearance in school's second year as full member ... In 1996, directed Western to national final and school-record 11 victories ... In 1995, guided Vikings to an undefeated regular season (9-0), their first time since 1938, and school's first No.1 rating in both regular-season (five weeks) and final national polls ... In 1994, directed Western to its first post-season win, reaching national quarterfinals ... His 1992 squad was first in school history to reach national playoffs and his 1989 team got Western's first Top 25 rating ... Led Western to 12 straight non-losing seasons, a school record (previous best was six) ... Top Viking assistant in 1987 and 1988, being defensive coordinator in 1988 ... Also associate athletic director at WWU in charge of support services ... Came to Western after spending five years as top assistant at Renton High School ... In 1986, Indians were 11-1 and reached semifinals of Class AAA state playoffs ... Head track coach at Renton for two years and assistant baseball coach for three seasons ... Lettered three years as fullback at University of Washington, playing in 1978 Rose Bowl ... Earned bachelor's degree at UW in 1981 ... First Husky player coached by Don James to become collegiate head football coach ... Went to training camp of NFL's New York Giants in 1979 as free agent ... Graduate of Hoquiam High School and is member of Grizzlies' Roll of Honor, his father and grandfather also being members ... Led state with 20 touchdowns his senior year and intercepted 11 passes ... Also state champion hurdler in track ... His older brother, Dave, played professional baseball for eight years in Seattle Mariners and California Angels farm systems ... 47 years old ... He and wife Wendy (formerly Larion) have two children, daughter Alison 11 and son Jared 7.