BOZEMAN — Less than 24 hours after the news broke of his departure to the University of Texas, Jeff Choate, the Longhorns' new co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, spoke to the Montana media one last time.
“I gave this place my best, I gave those boys my best," Choate said while holding back tears. "When you put your whole self into something, it’s going to hurt and that’s OK.”
Choate has been the head football coach at Montana State since he was hired in December of 2015. He said leaving MSU was no easy decision, but it’s what he needed to do for his career.
“When I remove the emotion from this decision it becomes pretty clear that for me to achieve some of the things that I still have set on my goals lists, I’ve got to take this next step," he said. "It was pretty much a slam dunk from the standpoint of what I needed to do professionally to advance my career and to take that chance to grab that brass ring down the road maybe.”
Besides the Boise State head coaching gig that he lost out on, there were other opportunities that came along like Texas.
“I’ve been really fortunate I think to have built a reputation in this business that I’m in a position to interview for a job like Boise and there were some other things that came up," Choate said. "This was not the only opportunity that fell in my lap the last couple of weeks."
As for his coaching staff at MSU, Choate hopes they can stay on with the Cats.
“I think this program is poised for greatness," he said. "Great leadership in athletics and on the university side, a loaded roster, a great group of young men, I’m very hopeful that they will retain our staff and keep that intact because I think that continuity is a big part of the success here and it’s time for those guys to roll.”
MTN Sports' Slim Kimmel reported that while Choate was announcing his departure from Montana State, director of athletics Leon Costello met with team parents. According to one of those parents, MSU will conduct a national search for Choate’s successor, but retaining current coaches is priority. A decision is expected in the next 7-10 days.
As for the Bobcats' fan base, here's what Choate had to say to them:
“It’s been a hell of a ride. This place has embraced our family and it’s been awesome. No matter where I go, what I do, I will always be able to say I never lost to Montana.”
In the end, Choate had to spread his wings.
“Financially, I was at the ceiling of probably what a place like this can do, but that was not the primary reason for this," he said. "It was for me to live my values and as REO Speedwagon said, 'It’s time for me to fly.'”