(STATS) - New Montana State football coach Jeff Choate says when he got into the profession, he didn't just set out to be a head coach, he wanted to be in the Big Sky Conference.
"It's the league I grew up around, and I have strong ties to Montana," said the Idaho native, who was named Montana State's head coach Friday. He served the last two seasons as a University of Washington assistant.
"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."
Choate replaces Rob Ash, who was fired Nov. 23 - two days after the Bobcats finished 5-6, including 3-5 in the Big Sky.
Choate was Washington's defensive line coach and special teams coordinator under Chris Peterson. The Huskies led the Pac-12 in scoring defense and total defense this season.
The former Montana Western linebacker, a 1993 graduate, previously worked for Peterson at Boise State from 2006-2011, then spent 2012 as Washington State's linebackers coach and 2013 as Florida's linebackers coach and special teams coordinator.
His only coaching stint on the FCS level was at Eastern Illinois in 2005 and '06. He also was an assistant at Utah State and Montana Western as well as a head coach at Idaho high schools in Challis and Post Falls.
"Jeff Choate is a well-respected person who has enjoyed coaching success throughout the Northwest and beyond at the high school and college level," Montana State athletic director Peter Fields said. "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."
Montana State was 70-38 with three Big Sky titles in Ash's nine seasons. During that time, however, the Bobcats were only 2-7 against rival Montana.
Ash's former offensive coordinators Tim Cramsey (current) and Brian Wright, Arizona State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball and Missouri associate head coach and receivers coach Andy Hill also interviewed on campus for the MSU position.
Choate will be introduced on campus during a news conference Monday.
"This is what I've worked my entire career for," he said, "to lead a college football program."