The end of an era was announced by head football coach Larry Blakeney at a press conference on Monday, Oct. 6.
The end of the 2014 season will be the end of Blakeney’s final year as the football team’s head coach. He expressed his hope to maintain a presence at Troy and to help in any way he can.
“Although he may be stepping away at the end of the year as our head football coach, he will continue to play an important role in Troy athletics,” said Athletic Director John Hartwell.
Blakeney made it clear that the decision to retire from his position was not rushed and that he took everyone who would be affected into consideration.
The night before the press conference, Blakeney sat down with the football team in the field house and told them his decision.
“I think it came as a shock to me,” said junior defensive end Tyler Roberts. “Definitely, it came as a shock to the rest of the guys on the team, too. Something like that big of news in the middle of the season — nobody’s really thinking about that at the time, so when it comes up, obviously nobody’s ready for it or prepared for it.”
Blakeney explained that he hoped that the idea of a coaching transition would change the players’ mindsets.
“Sometimes when you’re not sure, it motivates you to work harder,” Blakeney said.
Roberts said he doesn’t think the resignation was something that was needed to get the team going.
“We were going to try to do all we can to finish on a weekly basis to finish out the best possible record we could, just so we could leave a different legacy on this season than so far what’s been laid,” Roberts said.
Blakeney kept his speech short and made it clear that he is still focused on trying to win the next ball game.
“It’s time for me probably to move on, and the opportunity to finish coaching this team especially where we are at this juncture in this season is going to be one that I hope we can make a rewarding one,” Blakeney said.
At 67 years old, Blakeney has coached 45 teams in a row since 1970. He coached at several high schools and served as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Auburn University, for 14 years.
The coach reminisced about the many people who gave him different coaching opportunities.
“You don’t just walk out there and get a college football job,” he said.
Blakeney had entered the 2014 season expecting to go undefeated and still enjoys knowing when the team is going to win a game. The team has a 0-5 record this season.
“The wins are great,” Blakeney said. “The losses are awful. It’s awful. It kills you. It wrenches your gut. You try to go through your head and try to figure out what you can do as a coach to help your team.”
At Troy, Blakeney has served as head coach for 24 years and is also the school’s all-time winningest coach with a 175-106-1 record. 2010 was the latest winning season for the head coach.
As head coach, Blakeney has been responsible for leading the Trojans to 15 winning seasons, including six seasons of 10 or more wins. The Trojans have won five conference titles and appeared in five bowl games since joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2004.
“The guy is a legend,” Hartwell said. “You don’t use that term very loosely, but he certainly is a legend and synonymous with Troy football and the success it’s had over the last 24 years.”
When asked, Blakeney informed the media that it was not health reasons or a better job opportunity that caused him to want to retire.
“I feel healthy,” he said. “I feel good.”
One of Blakeney’s fondest wins was the Missouri game in 2004, which Troy won 24-14.
Veterans Memorial Stadium’s field is named after Blakeney, and he is one of the two active coaches in the NCAA to coach on the field that is currently named for him. He is also a member of the inaugural 2012 class of the Troy Sports Hall of Fame.
Hartwell made a point to thank Blakeney for all his contributions to the football team.
“To me and to many of you, the greater thing that Coach Larry Blakeney has brought to Troy football is the development of young men and not just developing them on the football field,” Hartwell said.
“You look off the field because that’s really what the business we’re in is preparing young men and young women, our student-athletes, for — the game of life — and you look at what he’s done in developing these young men. To me, that is the No. 1 thing that Larry Blakeney has accomplished, and we are very thankful for that.”
The search process will begin immediately, but the main focus will continue to be on winning the remaining games of the season. An advisory committee will be made up of a variety of people, including former players.
Hartwell is hopeful to find a coach by Dec. 15. Many candidates have already expressed interest in the position. Troy currently pays Blakeney $505,000 a year as head coach, so this budget allures a wide variety of candidates.
“There’s a fit guy,” Blakeney said. “I don’t know who he is, but there’s a guy that fits this place and will take over and make this thing run.”
Blakeney acknowledged that Troy was a good place for him and said he enjoyed raising his family here. He and his wife raised their three daughters in Troy, and each girl graduated from Troy University with various degrees.
“We will continue to be proud of Troy University and what we’ve been able to do here,” Blakeney said.