As Bob Ford retires, we say goodbye to an era of coaching that isn't coming back
With each passing day we get further and further away from The Way Things Used To Be, although somedays that reality slaps us in the face harder than others. Yesterday was one of those days, as Albany's Bob Ford announced the 2013 season will be his last as a college football coach.
Ford entered coaching at age 22 and four years later took over the head coaching position at St. Lawrence University in 1965. After posting a 9-22-1 record over four seasons, he spent one season as a defensive coordinator at Springfield College before his next, and ultimately final, stop. In 1970, Ford was hired to build Albany's football program from the ground up, and build he did. He guided the Great Danes from the club level to Division III to Divison II to FCS. Along the way he won 265 games, eight conference championships and was named the Northeast Conference's Coach of the Year six times. Forty-three years after taking the job, a full four decades after first hitting the field, Ford is still the only head coach the school has ever known.
Fittingly, his final season will coincide with two more moves. Albany will play its first season at Bob Ford Field, and for the first time will compete in the Colonial Athletic Association.
The winningest active coach in Division I, Ford began his career as the youngest head coach in college football and departs as the oldest. Needless to say, that's something we'll never see again.
While Ford's career arc will never be duplicated in the duplicated in the future, he isn't alone. An elite fraternity of coaches have preceeded Ford in hanging up their whistles for the final time in recent years.
John Gagliardi will spend his fall away from the sidelines for the first time in 70 years. Larry Kehres has called it quits after 26 years as a head coach. Within two seasons, the college game is losing three coaches that combined to win 1,095 games, 58 conference championships and 15 national championships (and counting) over 134 seasons as head coaches. Perhaps even more astounding, all but eight of those 134 seasons were spent at the same three schools.
Throw Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden into the mix and you have five coaches that combined to win 1,915 games (a few of which the NCAA later vacated, in all fairness) and 19 national titles over 225 combined seasons.
If you spent your 20's climbing the ladder as a graduate assistant or a volunteer intern, you know more than anyone that colleges and universities aren't handing out head coaching positions to inexperienced coaches in their mid-20's anymore. And if you're a head coach that was sent packing after three less-than-successful seasons, you know more than anyone that schools aren't willing to wait through a .500 season or two, or four, or six, in this day and age.
The age of the program patriarch is gone, and it's not coming back.