Northern Arizona's Jerome Souers to return for '18 in reversal

Reversing a decision that many people considered a mistake, Northern Arizona has announced it will bring back popular football coach Jerome Souers for the 2018 season.

Souers, 59, the winningest coach in Big Sky history, was going to be shown the door after this season following a Sept. 11 announcement by Lisa Campos, then the school's vice president for collegiate athletics. It sparked surprise and disappointment across the conference.

At the time, the Lumberjacks had opened the season with two straight losses. But they won their next six games in a 7-4 regular season. On Sunday, they received an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs -- their first appearance since 2013 and the fifth of Souers' tenure.

School president Rita Cheng announced on Monday that Souers, whose contract was set to expire in January, would return next season and that defensive coordinator Andy Thompson would be promoted to associate head coach.

"Maintaining stability in the athletics department is extremely important as NAU begins its search for a new athletics director," Cheng said. "It will be a key consideration for those interested in NAU's athletics director position to know they are walking into a strong and stable program and will have the time and ability to make coaching decisions."

Souers holds Big Sky records for overall wins (119), conference wins (82) and number of years as head coach. His 25th-ranked team will host San Diego in a first-round playoff game on Saturday.