Whitworth University announced Tuesday that John Tully resigned as the Pirates’ football coach after having won his 100th game Saturday.
At 19 years, Tully had the longest tenure and most wins for Whitworth, which finished a disappointing 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the Northwest Conference.
The university announced that Tully resigned only after a noon meeting called by interim director of athletics Melinda Larson and university president Beck Taylor.
“I think it’s a great time for me to move on. Nineteen years at any place is a long time,” Tully said after the university announced his resignation. “It’s been a great ride. The players have been fabulous, the coaches have been awesome. It’s been enjoyable.”
Larson also met with Tully’s three full-time assistants, receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Jason Tobeck, defensive line and strength coach Dave Pomante and defensive coordinator Kirk Westre, who also coached 19 years at Whitworth. They and seven part-time assistants, including John Tully’s son Jay, will retain their jobs until a new coach is hired.
Larson, who would not say how much Tully was paid, said the new coach will decide who, if any, of the assistants remain.
“The search is going to start right away,” Larson said. “We want to have a head coach named as soon as possible, but we won’t be hasty. We will do a full national search and get the best possible candidates we can.”
Asked whether she asked Tully to resign, Larson said: “Everyone has the option to resign at any time. We did accept his resignation today.”
Asked whether Tully would still be coach if he hadn’t resigned, Larson responded: “I’m going to stick with that response: that we did accept his resignation today.”
Tully leaves with a 100-83 record in 19 seasons as the Pirates’ head coach. He led Whitworth to three Northwest Conference titles and NCAA Division III playoff appearances. He won the first conference title in 2001 and guided the Pirates to a perfect regular season in 2006 (10-0).
Coming into the season Tully said he had high hopes with 16 returning starters, including junior quarterback Bryan Peterson, who became a starter midway through the 2011 season.
“Bryan gets the game. He’s going to have a great year,” Tully said in August. “We have a chance at a quality season.”
The Pirates started strong with wins over St. Scholastica and Whittier. But a home loss against La Verne started a five-game losing skid that included losses to conference foes Pacific (Ore), Willamette and Linfield.
The Pirates seemed to right the ship with a win at Puget Sound and a close 28-21 loss to Pacific Lutheran at home. Whitworth finished last Saturday with a 61-28 thrashing of Lewis & Clark at Portland.
With the 2-4 conference record, the Pirates finished fifth in the seven-team league.
Prior to his arrival at Whitworth in 1995, the Pirates had 10 losing seasons in 11 years. Through his guidance, the Pirates won 61 games from 2000 to 2008, which was the most wins in any nine-year stretch in the Pirates’ history, according to the university website.
Larson said that while Whitworth has a long history of success in athletics, that wins and losses are not the only way coaches are judged.
Asked whether the university had an incident or pattern of behavior that preceded the meeting at which Tully resigned, Larson said: “There was no smoking gun or anything behind the scenes.”
As for Tully, the 61-year-old coach – who also served as head coach for five years at Eureka College in Eureka, Ill. – definitely wants to stalk the sidelines somewhere else.
“My time here has been fabulous. I’m truly appreciative of the opportunities I’ve had here,” Tully said. “Right now, I’m at peace and feel good about everything that we were able to do at Whitworth. I look forward to what’s out there in the future.”