Bill Curry wasn’t going to let the news of his retirement on Wednesday alter his belief that discipline can lead to great things.
After the news broke Tuesday night that Curry will retire from coaching football after Georgia State completes its season in November, he told his team Wednesday morning and led everyone onto the practice field less than an hour later.
Bullhorn in hand and wearing his customary tan pants, long-sleeve shirt and canvas hat, Curry led the team in special-teams drills. If he told the players once, he told them a dozen times: “This isn’t a day off.”
So after practice, Curry re-affirmed that this year’s team will have his full attention as their 69-year-old leader completes his 20th year as a head coach and 58th in organized football.
“I do want to finish this contract and I want to finish it well,” he said.
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 two children and five grandchildren and that he didn’t want to the program to lose its focus while people speculated on his future.
“You know how stuff like this can be negative for a program,” he said after Wednesday’s practice.
Curry said he is in good health, but 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 told his assistant coaches at 7 a.m. Wednesday. They then gathered their players and told them, before Curry spoke to the team Wednesday morning. One player said he almost cried during one of the meetings, held in the practice facility whose interior is adorned with some of Curry’s favorite phrases about discipline. 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.”
The press conference Wednesday afternoon continued the theme of focus. Athletic director Cheryl Levick said that a national search for Curry’s replacement will be conducted, but interviews won’t be scheduled until after the season because she wants it to be the focus.
Players Jordan Giles and Mark Hogan said they weren’t shocked that Curry is retiring. Instead of it being a distraction, they said it could make them more focused because of what Curry means to them.
“I think we are all honored to be a part of someone whose whole life has been affiliated with football,” said Hogan, whose father Mark played for Curry at Georgia Tech. “There’s already moments in my life where I can look back and say coach Curry influenced me.
“We want to send him out with wins.”
That Curry is retiring isn’t unexpected.
His contract, with a base salary of $350,000, ends next year, which is a factor many said led them to believe that he was likely going to retire. But he won’t be done at Georgia State, which he said held a special place in his heart even before he accepted the head coaching job in 2008. The university is where his wife Carolyn earned her Master’s and PhD. while the family bounced back and forth between his stops in the NFL. It was the only time Curry became emotional during Wednesday’s press conference. There were several boxes of tissues hidden behind the podium and speaker’s table, just in case.
Levick said Curry will continue at Georgia State as a special assistant to the athletic director, working with her on fund-raising and other activities. He will also assist University President Dr. Mark Becker with the school’s centennial celebration.
But Curry wasn’t too interested in talking about the future on Wednesday. He has one goal: helping his team stay disciplined and realize its potential so that it can improve upon last year’s 3-8 record.
“There will be a time for thanks and reminiscing and happiness and sadness at the end of the season, but my reason for doing this now is so Georgia State football and be focused on this season,” Curry said.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu