RENO Chris Ault raised Nevada football. After 28 years as coach, he felt he had taken the Wolf Pack as far as he could.
Ault announced Friday he was stepping down, leaving as the winningest coach in school history, already a Hall of Famer, and having changed the way teams play offense nationwide.
Under Ault, the Wolf Pack went from Division II to I-AA to I-A, winning at every level with some of the most prolific and innovative offenses in the country.
The 66-year-old won 10 conference championships and took the Wolf Pack to the postseason 16 times, including 10 bowl games in 12 FBS seasons. He finished with a record of 233-109-1.
Its with great humility and mixed emotions Ive decided its time for me to step down and move on, a tearful Ault said at a press conference. Wolf Pack football firmly established a blueprint for success that can be sustained.
Perhaps his most famous contribution came late in his career, when he invented the Pistol offense in 2005, a scheme now employed by hundreds of teams at every level of football.
The Pistol formation has the quarterback in a short shotgun formation with a running back lined up directly behind him.
Im proud that our offense has broadened the landscape of football. Thats exciting, Ault said. Its here to stay, unlike the wishbone (offense).
He said he reached the decision to step down after consulting with his wife, Kathy, and Nevada President Marc Johnson. He informed his staff and players of the decision Friday morning.
Ault first broached the subject after Arizona rallied to beat Nevada 49-48 in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 15. The loss dropped Aults bowl record to 2-8 and Nevadas season record to 7-6, including losses in five of its final six games.
With most of the Wolf Packs offensive starters and entire defensive front returning next season, Ault said, the timing was right to turn the program over to a new coach.
I have focused on leaving the program in the best shape. he said. Im sure itll be a sought-after position.
While he has no plans to return as coach or athletic director at Nevada, he didnt rule out coaching elsewhere. Nevada athletic director Cary Groth is also retiring after this school year.
Ault agreed to a two-year contract extension last February that would have brought his salary to $535,000 by 2015. Thats about half the average salary in the Mountain West Conference where he coached this season.
Ault was the only active Division I coach in the College Football Hall of Fame. This season, he passed Bear Bryant for most wins by a coach at his alma mater.
His 40-year career with Nevada began when he played quarterback for the Wolf Pack from 1965-67. He became coach there in 1976 at the age of 29, then the youngest college coach in the nation.
His best season was in 2010 when he led his team to a 13-1 record and a win against Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The Wolf Pack, with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, were ranked No. 13 after upsetting Boise State to win a WAC championship.