Coach calls time­out, an­nounces re­tire­ment, walks off field

The Sun News (Sunday) - - Scoreboard - BY JA­COB BOGAGE

Denny Douds was a 33-yearold as­sis­tant coach at East Strouds­burg Uni­ver­sity when the head coach went on sab­bat­i­cal, then de­cided to re­tire. The school’s ath­letic di­rec­tor put the young as­sis­tant in charge of the foot­ball team with­out an in­ter­view.

Douds told his wife they’d only stay in Mon­roe County, Penn­syl­va­nia, for a sea­son or two, un­til a big­ger coach­ing job opened up. That was in 1974.

He vowed years ago to stop coach­ing when the job stopped be­ing so much fun. Satur­day, the time came.

East Strouds­burg trailed Ohio Do­mini­can by 13 with four sec­onds to play. Douds had used all three of his time­outs. He asked the of­fi­cial for a fourth, know­ing it’d be a penalty.

“I know that’s not al­lowed,” Douds told him. “That’s OK. I’m re­tir­ing.”

As the of­fi­cial scur­ried away to talk to the head ref­eree, Douds blew a whis­tle – to call his team over.

“Gang, I am step­ping aside as head coach,” he said. “I’ll still teach and fundraise for the uni­ver­sity, for the ath­letic pro­gram. I love all you guys.”

He turned around and walked off the field, his team still in shock be­hind him. When he ar­rived on the other side­line, ref­er­ees restarted the clock. The teams shook hands. Douds walked out the gate to the vis­it­ing locker room, and then to his car, and drove home.

“I’ve had a smile on my face ever since,” he said.

He told the uni­ver­sity pres­i­dent of his plans last Wednes­day be­fore leav­ing work. That night, he took his wife out to din­ner, and when they got home, he sat down with her on the couch.

“Honey,” he said, “it’s that time.”

Douds had only ever wanted to be a foot­ball coach as a child in In­di­ana, Penn­syl­va­nia. In mid­dle school, a teacher asked his class what each of them wanted to be when they grew up. He looked around the class­room at his friends and saw the son of the lo­cal foot­ball coach, and the son of the lo­cal bas­ket­ball coach.

“I looked at those guys and said, ‘Those dads have a great time when they leave home in the morn­ing. They don’t go to work. They go have some fun all day. I want to be a foot­ball coach,’ ” he said.

He played guard and nose tackle at Slip­pery Rock Uni­ver­sity, the only col­lege he knew that of­fered a phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion de­gree, then im­me­di­ately jumped into coach­ing. By the time he was in charge at East Strouds­burg, he al­ready gained a rep­u­ta­tion for de­vel­op­ing play­ers into coaches, and young coaches into vet­er­ans ready to lead their own teams.

Penn State coach James Franklin played quar­ter­back for Douds and coached de­fen­sive backs in 1996. Harry Hi­e­s­tand, the Chicago Bears of­fen­sive line coach, was on Douds’ staff from 1981 to 1985. Pat Fla­herty, now in charge of the Jack­sonville Jaguars’ of­fen­sive line, coached that po­si­tion group at East Strouds­burg in 1980.

As­so­ciate head coach Jimmy Ter­williger will take over the pro­gram and coach the War­riors’ fi­nal two road games.

Douds planned his re­tire­ment an­nounce­ment for months. He saw a bas­ket­ball coach years ago

I THOUGHT, IF YOU HAVE TO GO, THAT’S THE WAY TO GO. Denny Douds, on re­tir­ing as East Strouds­burg Uni­ver­sity foot­ball coach

re­tire by walk­ing off the bench and into the locker room with a cou­ple of min­utes left in the game.

“I thought, if you have to go, that’s the way to go,” he said. And Satur­day, ESU’s se­nior day, felt right.

Douds planned to leave right at the end of the third quar­ter, but his team was down 31 points. He fig­ured he couldn’t leave them in the mid­dle of a blowout. Then his War­riors scored two touch­downs, then two more. As long as East Strouds­burg kept the score close, he couldn’t waste a time­out just to walk off the field.

So he cre­ated an ex­tra time­out in the game’s fi­nal sec­onds and sowed chaos on the field. The head ref­eree stopped the clock as a cour­tesy and did not flag East Strouds­burg for the ex­tra time­out. Ohio Do­mini­can’s coaches lined up to shake hands in­stead of sig­nal­ing in a fi­nal play. The game’s broad­cast­ers tried and failed to ex­plain the game’s stop­page.

“What is he do­ing? Now he’s out in the mid­dle of the field,” said the color com­men­ta­tor.

“I don’t know what this is,” replied the play-by-play man. “That looks like a man who has walked off this field for the fi­nal time.”

Lit­tle did they know.

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