Rodney Allison moved the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football program forward in his six seasons as head coach, but the wins didn’t come often enough to earn him a new contract, athletic director Rick Hart announced Tuesday.
Allison, whose contract ends after this season, will coach the Mocs’ final four games.
“Our competitive performance — both the body of work over (the past five) seasons in addition to our first eight games this year — combined with what I believe to be some signs of apathy setting in amongst our fan base and the community, were two major reasons for this change,” Hart said during a news conference in the Hall of Fame Room at McKenzie Arena. “Our focus is always on the student-athlete, and I believe this path will prove to be best for them as well.”
Hart credited Allison with changing “the culture surrounding our football program” by not having a “win-at-all-costs approach” and by putting an increased emphasis on performance in the classroom and having a strong presence in the community.
“Our staff and our student-athletes have much to be proud of, and I believe that our football program is positioned for future success because of their collective efforts,” Hart said.
During a phone interview at about 7 p.m. Monday, Allison said he was not aware of a pending announcement on his future. Allison and Hart met later that evening and met again Tuesday morning to figure out how best to handle the announcement.
The Mocs’ assistant coaches and players were told of the decision during meetings between 10 and 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Allison has a record of 17-47, including a 1-7 record this season that includes six losses in a row. His winning percentage of .265 is the lowest of any of the 15 multiyear coaches in the history of the program.
All seven of UTC’s losses this season have been by 24 points or more, including all four Southern Conference games. The Mocs were routed 42-7 by seventh-ranked Elon last Saturday, with only about 2,000 spectators at Finley Stadium.
The Mocs’ only win came on Sept. 6, against Cumberland, an NAIA school.
An emotional Allison, speaking in the same room in which his hiring was announced on Dec. 6, 2002, talked about how much being at UTC and living in Chattanooga has meant to him and his family, who stood beside him at the podium.
He said that even though he knew wins were a must this season for him to remain as coach, he didn’t let his situation affect how he coached or ran his program.
“I always have and still believe in the future of this football program, and did everything I could to maintain that future without taking a win-at-all-costs attitude,” he said. “I told Rick early in August that I would coach this year like I was planning on being here five years.”
When talking about his own plans after this season, Allison nearly broke down when he looked at his son Sloan, a redshirt freshman quarterback on the team.
“I’m going to do what’s best for him,” Allison said, pointing to Sloan, “and I will make my decision based strictly on that.”
After more than 20 years as an assistant coach, Allison was hired by former UTC athletic director Steve Sloan, who was Allison’s coach at Texas Tech in the mid-1970s. Allison came in as the latest coach charged with turning around the struggling program, which has made the NCAA playoffs only in 1984. He will depart as the fifth consecutive coach to leave UTC with a losing record.
“Like a lot of assistant coaches, I had a dream to be a head football coach one day,” Allison said. “I got that chance and I am very appreciative for it.”
There was speculation that he would be let go at the end of last season, with one year remaining on a contract that pays him $125,000 a year, but Hart announced the week of the final game that Allison would return in 2008.
Even though Allison was able to stay, six of his assistant coaches left during the offseason. Staff turnover was a problem throughout Allison’s tenure. More than two dozen assistants served on his staff for at least one season.
The Mocs are off this Saturday, and their scheduled practice Tuesday afternoon was canceled. Their next game is Nov. 1 at Western Carolina.
Coach Allison out after this seasonThe University of Tennessee at Chattanooga announced Tuesday that coach Rodney Allison’s contact will not be renewed after the 2008 season. Coach Allison will remain head coach for the final four games this season.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...