CORVALLIS — Jonathan Smith is coming home.
The former Oregon State standout quarterback was officially named the school’s new head football coach Wednesday evening, ending a 51-day search that followed Gary Andersen’s bizarre departure.
Smith, 38, has served as the University of Washington’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach since 2014. An introductory press conference was scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday.
“We are very excited about having coach Smith lead our program," OSU director of athletics Scott Barnes said in a statement. "We interviewed several qualified candidates and coach Smith emerged as our top choice. He brings to Oregon State football an impressive plan to build our program. He has a unique perspective on what it means to be a part of Beaver Nation and to be successful for our student-athletes on and off the field.”
Smith was a four-year starter for the Beavers from 1998-2001, helping lead the team to the 2000 Pac-10 title and the 2001 Fiesta Bowl.
The undersized former walk-on ranks third all-time at OSU in passing yards (9,680) and touchdowns (55). He will be the first OSU graduate to serve as the school’s head coach.
“I want to thank President (Ed) Ray and Scott Barnes for their confidence in presenting me this opportunity to return to Oregon State University to be the head coach," Smith said in a statement. "I also want to express my gratitude to coach (Chris) Petersen for providing me a path to realize my dream as a head coach.
“Oregon State University is a special place and I have many memories of being a part of Beaver Nation. I played for some of the best coaches I have ever been around and learned many of the qualities I have utilized in my coaching career."
Under Smith’s guidance, the Beavers finished the 2000 season 11-1 overall after routing Notre Dame, 41-9, in the Fiesta Bowl. Smith threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns in the victory and was named Fiesta Bowl offensive player of the game.
OSU checked in at fourth in the final AP poll that season.
“Favorite QB I’ve ever blocked for,” former Beavers teammate Aaron Koch tweeted when the news first broke Wednesday afternoon. “He is and always has been a class act ... just what OSU needs right now.”
Smith and his wife, Candice, have three children: Robert (9 years old), Bella (7) and Charles (3).
A Southern California native and 1997 graduate of Glendora High, Smith was recruited to Corvallis by Mike Riley and ended his playing career under Dennis Erickson. He went 24-14 as a starter.
Smith was a graduate assistant for the Beavers from 2002-03 and made stops at Idaho (2004-09), Montana (2010-11) and Boise State (2012-13) before landing at Washington. He was the quarterbacks coach for two seasons under Petersen with the Broncos and has been Washington’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach the past four years.
In April, Smith agreed to a two-year extension worth $700,000 annually.
Smith has shared offensive coordinator duties with former Oregon and OSU assistant Matt Lubick during the 2017 season. The Huskies (10-2) rank 18th nationally in scoring offense (36.9 points per game) and 55th in total offense (411.7 yards per game).
In 2016, Washington ranked eighth in scoring offense (41.8) and 32nd in total offense (457) as the team won the Pac-12 title and qualified for the College Football Playoff.
“Congrats to our guy Smitty!,” Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson tweeted. Anderson was Smith’s backup in 2001 before taking the reins.
“I knew back then he was gonna be a great coach. (OSU) got a good one. Now it will take us all to make sure he gets the support he deserves.”
Smith has been left a rebuilding project by Andersen, who mutually agreed to part ways with OSU in October after two and a half years. Andersen finished 7-23 — 4-23 against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents — during his time in Corvallis.
The Beavers’ season ended Saturday with a 69-10 loss at Oregon. OSU finished 1-11 overall, its lone victory coming against winless Portland State.
“I’m in the process of putting together a coaching staff that will share the same vision and goals that I have for this program," Smith said. "I’m looking forward to working with the young men we currently have in the program and solidifying a recruiting class.”
On Sunday, an OSU spokesperson confirmed that the team’s assistant coaches would not be retained and interim head coach Cory Hall would maintain his post for the foreseeable future.
According to FootballScoop, OSU’s lengthy coaching search took many twists and turns before Barnes and Ray chose Smith. FootballScoop, which reported that California offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin would be the coach last Friday, indicated that the 70-year-old Erickson was in consideration as recently as Tuesday.
The Beavers are scheduled to open the 2018 football season at Ohio State on Sept. 1.