After compiling 105 wins during a 14-year stint as UCA’s head football coach, Clint Conque resigned Saturday to take the head coach position at inter-conference rival Stephen F. Austin State University.
UCA senior defensive back Jestin Love said Conque’s decision to leave surprised him.
“The decision did shock me because he has roots in the community and good standing within the organization, with plans on making memories like the previous friendships and championships,” he said.
Love said younger players were hurt by how he made his decision.
Conque earned his 100th win this season in the Bears’ 17-13 win over Missouri State on Sept. 21. The victory put Conque’s name in the history books alongside former Arkansas Razorbacks head football coach Frank Broyles as the only Division I coaches to win 100 games at an Arkansas university.
This season, the Bears faced several key injuries, but were able to overcome and compile a 7-5 record overall and a 4-3 record in the conference.
Conque received his first head coaching job at UCA in 2000 and became arguably the best head coach in UCA’s history.
In his 14 seasons as head coach, he has compiled two seasons of at least 10 wins, four seasons of making the playoffs and three conference titles.
Conque has coached at the Division II level and the Division I level since becoming the head coach at UCA. In 2005, UCA’s last year in Division II and the Gulf South Conference, he led the Bears to an 11-win season and a spot in the Division II playoffs. The Bears lost in the quarterfinals of the tournament and finished the season ranked sixth overall. While in Division II, Conque compiled a 44-26 record.
UCA made the move to Division I before the 2006 season and was a Football Championship Subdivision independent. The Bears finished that season 8-3.
The following year, the Bears joined the Southland Conference. UCA went 5-2 in conference play and 6-5 overall.
Since making the move to Division I, Conque’s Bears have a 56-30 record. They have finished in the top 25 in four of their seven Division I seasons.
The Bears have a 31-13 record against Southland teams since joining the Southland, which is good for a .705 winning percentage.
UCA is the only Southland program to post three nine-win seasons during the last seven years. Conque has led two Bears to two Southland championships.
During the past six seasons, UCA has won the most home victories and has had the highest home-winning percentage among all Southland teams. The Bears are also the only Southland team to go undefeated at home in three seasons during that time – 2008, 2011 and 2012.
Conque has had two quarterbacks win Southland Offensive Player of the Year in current quarterback senior Wynrick Smothers (2012) and current quarterbacks coach Nathan Brown (2007 and Player of the Year in 2008).
Conque received a five-year contract at SFA worth $200,000 annually. His base salary at UCA was at $135,000, but bonuses and coaching show income brought his total to $175,000 to $180,000 per year. Conque will also take some of his assistants to Nacogdoches, Texas.
Athletic Director Brad Teague said he wants a replacement for Conque by Friday. Some names that have been linked to the vacancy include Auburn University running backs coach Tim Horton, son of former UCA head coach Harold Horton; former UCA offensive coordinator Todd Cooley, current Delta State University head coach; and former Arkansas State University coach Steve Roberts, current athletic director at Cabot.
Austin Emerson, former UCA offensive lineman and current Morrilton High School coaching staff member, said he was surprised Conque left.
“I was shocked because he had told us my senior year that he would probably retire in 2015,” he said. “I thought he would be here until he retired, but now that I’m a coach, the trill of a new opportunity is what drives a lot of people. Plus, financially, the move was great for him.