UPDATE: Montana State has officially announced that it has hired Huskies assistant Jeff Choate as its next head coach.
In a statement released by MSU on Friday night, Choate said he’s always wanted to coach in the Big Sky. He was one of five candidates who interviewed for the job.
“When I got into coaching I didn’t just set out to be a head coach,” Choate said in a statement. “I’ve always wanted to be a Big Sky Conference coach. It’s the league I grew up around, and I have strong ties to Montana. One of my most enjoyable years in coaching was at Eastern Illinois in the FCS level because it’s a great balance between a great brand of football, talented players, and the commitment of the kids to getting an education, which is the reason we’re all in this. The direction of the program under Coach Ash, the leadership of President Cruzado and the vision of Peter Fields all make this a tremendous opportunity.”
A 1993 graduate of Montana Western, Choate has bounced around a few different assistant jobs in the past decade. He worked for Huskies coach Chris Petersen at Boise State from 2006-11, but left to join Mike Leach’s first-year staff at Washington State as linebackers coach in 2012. Choate said he made that move to escape the label of being “just” a special-teams coach, a stigma that he felt hindered his pursuit of head coaching positions.
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After one year at WSU, Choate agreed to become the next defensive coordinator at UTEP under coach Sean Kugler, but left that job before the season started to help coach linebackers and special teams at Florida under Will Muschamp. After one year in Florida, Choate re-joined Petersen at Washington, and worked there for the past two seasons.
Under his watch, UW’s defensive line became one of the team’s strengths. Choate coached an all-senior group in 2014 led by All-America nose tackle Danny Shelton, but perhaps deserves more credit for the job he did with a younger, less experienced group in 2015, which helped the Huskies lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense.
UW’s special teams also thrived under Choate -- the Huskies have returned three punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns the past two seasons, and haven’t allowed a special-teams touchdown in that time.
“Jeff Choate is a well-respected person who has enjoyed coaching success throughout the Northwest and beyond at the high school and college level,” MSU athletic director Peter Fields said in a statement. “He impressed everyone who came in contact with him during this process with his energy and integrity, as well as his ability as a football coach. He knows our state, and his background suits him for this job. We are very excited to welcome Jeff Choate to Montana State University and into the Bobcat family.”