Georgia State’s Bill Curry will retire from coaching football at the end of the season. A news conference was held at 1 p.m. and then he led a normal practice session.
He doesn’t plan on going out quietly as the team prepares for its third season of play with many challenges upcoming.
“I do want to finish this contract and I want to finish it well,” he said after today’s practice.
Curry’s choice affects more than Georgia State as it continues its transition to the highest level of college football. It brings an end to a storied playing and coaching career for Curry, a College Park native who captained Georgia Tech in 1964 before playing 10 years in the NFL with three championships.
Curry, who will turn 70 in October, said there were several factors that helped him decide, including that he was missing the lives of his five grandchildren and that he didn’t want to hurt the program by delaying the announcement until November, which was when he repeatedly said he would decide.
“You know how stuff like this can be negative for a program,” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “Stuff kind of trickles out: ‘What’s he going to do? Is he really telling the truth?’ Can I look him in the eye and say, ‘I don’t know yet.’ I think the moment that I knew I couldn’t do that was the moment I needed to do something as soon as practically possible. That was the late spring and early summer.”
Curry discussed how leading a football program is an 80-hour-a-week job and that at his age he thinks his workload should be slightly less.
“I’m not trying to be facetious or brave or brag or complain either,” he said. “But that’s just a fact of life to get this kind of job done.”
Curry will continue to devote the full amount of attention to the program. The team practiced special teams situations today in which Curry repeatedly told them they didn’t have a day off and quizzed players throughout on the different situations.
Curry told the team of his decision at a meeting before practice started earlier today. One player said afterward that he almost cried. Curry said it was an emotional scene, but he feels confident that the players won’t have trouble focusing. As he likes to do, Curry told a story about a past coach’s firing.
As that coach finished his teary speech, Curry said a player raised his hand and asked, “Do we still get to eat at the training table?”
After laughing, Curry continued: “I’m not saying my guys are that crass, but I don’t think when I was 19 it would have bothered me too much if something changed. I think they will move on past this quickly and will do great.”
That Curry is retiring isn’t unexpected.
His contract, with a base salary of $350,000, ends next year. He and wife Carolyn have two children. Curry has also spoke in the past of continuing his mentoring and philanthropic activities, which he said today he will continue, as well as the possibility of writing, though he said he doesn’t have a topic in mind. He is a published author.
A few players tweeted responses to the news:
Parris Lee: “This man has changed my life forever it will be hard to see him go. ill do wherever i can to help him leave with a bang!!”
Ramell Davis: “The general leaving the soldiers at the end of the season Bout to give him one of the best seasons of his career #StateofShock movement.”
Curry began his coaching career at his alma mater as an assistant in 1976. He moved to the Packers, the team that drafted him, before he returned as coach of the Yellow Jackets from 1980-86. He continued at Alabama, where he won a national coach of the year award, and Kentucky. He followed by working at ESPN as an analyst for several years before being hired in 2008 to lead Georgia State’s start-up program. Curry led the team to a 6-5 record in its inaugural year before stumbling to a 3-8 record last year.
Curry was hired by former Georgia State athletic director Mary McElroy in 2008 to lead the program, which Curry likes to say didn’t even have a football yet, from the ground up. He made his first hires a month later: assistant head coach George Pugh, offensive coordinator John Bond, defensive coordinator John Thompson (who resigned last season to take a similar job at Arkansas State), assistants Anthony Midget and Chris Ward, and football operations director Mike Riddle.
Georgia State surprised many by going 6-5 in its inaugural year, which included a game at Alabama. The next year was affected by the team’s myriad on-the-field and off-the-field issues. Numerous players were suspended or dismissed for violating team rules, a trend that continued through the recent offseason. Things got more challenging in April when the university accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt, which plays football on the FBS level. As a result, the team has begun yet another transition which will take two years before the team can play for bowl games in 2014.
Curry’s decision gives athletic director Cheryl Levick more time to look for a new coach to lead the team as it moves into its new conference. The team will be eligible to play in bowl games in 2014-15.
Curry won numerous awards during his coaching career, including ACC Coach of the Year (1985), SEC Coach of the Year (1989) and Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year (1989). He was inducted into the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.