Combs fired after 17 seasons

Towson Football

December 03, 2008|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,

Gordy Combs, Towson University's football coach, was fired yesterday after a 17-year career in which he finished just above .500. School officials said they have begun a nationwide search to find his replacement.

Only the third head coach in Towson's 40-year football history, Combs leaves with a 92-90 record and two years remaining on a contract extension he signed in 2007. The Tigers have struggled of late, winning three games in each of the past two seasons despite a ballyhooed offense and great expectations.

"It was a difficult decision, but I believe it's time for Towson football to make a coaching change," athletic director Mike Hermann said in a statement. "We have not had the competitive success that we expect over the past two seasons."

As for Combs' successor, Hermann said: "We have no timetable to complete the search, but plan to do so prudently to find the right person to lead our football program."

Combs' departure ends his 39-year tenure with Towson football, where he starred as a linebacker (1971-72) before joining the staff as an assistant coach, serving for 19 years. In 1992, he replaced Phil Albert as head coach, taking the program from a 1-10 record to 8-2 in two seasons.

Combs, 58, expressed no bitterness. "I just wish we could have won a little more," he said. "But I understand this. I'm a big boy. I will survive."

He learned his fate on Monday, while recruiting in Virginia.

"Mike [Hermann] called and said he needed me back on campus," Combs said. "I pressed for the answer and he gave it to me."

Yesterday, Combs met with the team and announced his departure.

"Everyone was stunned. We all kind of sat there in shock," said Sean Schaefer, Towson's record-setting quarterback. "Coach has been the face of our program for so long. I felt badly, like, if I could have done something to win more games, he'd still be here."

"It just comes down to winning games," said Marcus Lee, the Tigers' all-time top receiver. "We didn't win enough for the AD and the people above him, so they had to make a move."

By last night, Combs said, he had received calls from more than 20 former players "thanking me for all I'd done for them. I really believe the program is better than when I took over.

"Whenever our players took the field, I told them, 'Play as hard as you can and have no regrets.' Well, I did the same thing. I worked hard."

A Baltimore native and graduate of Calvert Hall, Combs said he has no immediate plans - though he'd consider returning to the game eventually as a college assistant.

"I'm going to enjoy a little freedom and the build-up to Christmas with the family," he said. "But I'll always bleed black and gold. We have 51 scholarship players returning, and I told them that I'll look forward to seeing them at Towson games next year.

"Maybe I'll pay to sit in the stands. Or maybe I'll jump the fence. I know all the little ways to get into the stadium without buying a ticket."

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