SALT LAKE CITY -- Jim Fassel was named the University of Utah's head football coach Friday and immediately promised a passing game that will create excitement.
Fassel is an assistant with the Portland Breakers of the USFL and a former Utah assistant coach. He will replace Chuck Stobart, who was fired after a 6-5-1 season.
Fassel, 35, also was a coach at Weber State, in Ogden, Utah, before he went to Stanford and became offensive coordinator. He was the Utah quarterback and receiver coach in 1976 and he indicated at a news conference his heart is with the passing game.
'I've always liked throwing the football,' Ferrin said. 'If you're playing a team that's better and you've got a good quarterback and receivers, you have a chance of beating them.'
But the new head coach also said he had to look at Utah's present talent and mold his offense around it. He said he was particularly impressed with freshman running back Eddie Johnson.
The university had been searching for a coach since Stobart and Athletic director Arnie Ferrin ended a 'handshake agreement' that substituted for a contract, at the end of the season.
Ferrin said he wanted a coach who would put fans back in stands, claiming Stobart's ground-game style and mediocre record were leaving empty seats. And Fassel said he also wanted to attract fans.
'I want to put on an exciting show and win,' Fassel said.
He also said he and the school were negotiating a four-year contract.
'I feel like there's a committment that we'll have a first-class program and that goes to the budget too,' he said.
Fassel said recruiting was his top priority immediately and that he would be like to sign in-state players before looking elsewhere.
Asked about battling No. 1 Brigham Young for recruits, Fassel said he would emphasize Utah's strengths and that the program stresses an education along with football.
'I feel like we'll be as competitive in the conference as anybody,' he said.
Fassel is a California native, who played junior college football at Fullerton. Later, he was on Southern Cal's 1969 Pac-8 championship team that beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
He played his senior year at Long Beach and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1972. He also played with the San Diego Chargers and the Houston Oilers.
Before his first stint at Utah, Fassel was a coach with Fullerton State and with the Hawaiian Islanders of the defunct World Football League.
After leaving Utah, he went to Weber State for two years before moving to Stanford, where he coached All-America John Elway. He left Stanford prior to the 1984 season to become offensive coordinator for the Breakers.