By Angel Verdejo

Killeen Daily Herald

Copperas Cove's longtime head football coach will remain just that.

"I've decided to stay at Copperas Cove," said Jack Welch early Monday.

Last week, Welch was named one of three finalists for the head coaching position at Eastern New Mexico. The struggling NCAA Division II program announced Monday afternoon that former New Mexico Military Institute coach Josh Lynn was named the school's 15th head coach and will be formally announced at a news conference Wednesday.

Lynn and his former team was in Cove just over a week ago, playing in the 11th annual CHAMPS Heart of Texas Bowl, which Welch helped establish and is one of the many ties he has to the city. Lynn is an ENMU graduate and former student assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at the school.

The third finalist was Texas-El Paso assistant head coach Jeff Woodruff, who applied for the head position at Temple High School last year.

Lynn takes over after former ENMU head coach Mark Ribaudo stepped down last month after seven years at the helm. Ribaudo was 25-51, including a 2-9 mark in 2011.

All three finalists went to Portales last week - Welch was there Wednesday - to speak to athletic and school officials, as well as take a tour of the facilities.

Welch said before going to ENMU that it would be "very difficult to leave."

In addition to the football program, Welch and his family have multiple ties to Cove in and out of the school district.

"It's where my family is," Welch said, talking about not only his immediately family, but the "extended" family (fellow coaches, neighbors and friends) he's had since coming to Cove in 1994.

Welch turned around a downtrodden Cove program which hadn't reached the playoffs since 1960 before his arrival.

The Dawgs posted a winning record in Welch's first season and made the playoffs for the first time under his watch in 1998 (Cove went three rounds deep). The program has missed the postseason just once since that first appearance.

That includes back-to-back Division I-4A championship games in 2006-07 and the Division II-5A semifinals the next season.

Both of Welch's sons played at Cove, with the oldest - former quarterback Josh Welch - now in his fourth year as a varsity assistant. His brother Tracy is also in his 18th season as an assistant.

Six assistants have been with the program for at least 11 seasons.

This season, the Dawgs won their seventh district championship since 1999 and reached the second round of the playoffs.

The program has also sent countless players to the next level, including former quarterback Robert Griffin III, who won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday.

Despite the success, Welch said his plan isn't complete. It's more than just the elusive championship, as he said this season was one of the best he's had.

"My time here at Cove isn't done," Welch said.

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