Jerry Moore is not the head coach of the Appalachian State University football team any more.
That’s a reality the Mountaineer faithful have to cope with.
Information, as far as official releases from the university, related to the sudden retirement/firing of Moore at the end of this past season has been spotty and not very informative, but all the obvious signs that a staffing change was going to be made have appeared in the last year.
Appalachian hired former quarterback and assistant coach Scott Satterfield away from Florida International University in January to become ASU’s assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. The school sent its man out into the world, let him gain some Division I FBS experience, and brought him back just in time to release its longtime head coach.
When the first official word came down, in a press release from Appalachian on the afternoon of Dec. 2, Moore’s departure was presented as a mutual agreement between the coach and the school’s athletic department and administration. The release contained this quote from ASU athletic director Charlie Cobb: “Following the end of last season (2011), Coach Moore and I sat down and we came to the decision, with the approval of Dr. (Kenneth E.) Peacock (Appalachian State University chancellor) that the 2012 season would be the last season of his tenure as head coach.”
Moore has said publicly that he was caught unaware when ASU athletic director Charlie Cobb gave him the old heave-ho two weeks ago, and still hasn’t been given a reason for his firing. He has been reported as saying that he remembers conversations with Cobb related to the 2012 season being his last which took place in late 2011, but that the matter hadn’t been brought up since then.
That time period, late 2011, is significant for another reason.
An Appalachian feasibility committee released a full report in December 2011 which stated that the school was ready for a move to college football’s Division I FBS level, and that such a move would be financially profitable for the school. Moore should have known, at that moment, that he was going to lose his job in the very near future.
He deserved better. If he wanted to continue coaching, even if his team was going to move to FBS and receive merciless beatings week in and week out for the first few years, the school should have let him give it a shot.
Moore, 73, coached for 24 seasons and finished his career at ASU with a record of 215-87. His age places him among the oldest coaches in college football.
The man dedicated over two decades of his life to turning Appalachian into the FCS powerhouse it has been for the past 13 seasons, but back-to-back 8-4 finishes add another excuse for the school’s administration to make the decision, which was hopefully a difficult one, to push him aside.
Like most actions in college football, Moore’s firing isn’t personal. His success led to his undoing.
Whether Appalachian can win at the FBS level or not is immaterial. The school’s ability to recruit at the same level as other teams in the state like North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Duke, ECU or Chapel Hill doesn’t really matter either. The Board of Trustees sees dollar signs, and they’re headed toward them.
I suppose it’s logical to think that a coach who is successful at the FCS level may not have the same skills necessary for FBS-level competition, but that theory never had a chance to be tested in this specific case. It’s also true that Appalachian lost several assistants last year to Western Carolina University and had to cope with some ugly off-field incidents involving prominent players.
Those are typical problems any athletic program faces, and don’t warrant a change in leadership on their own.
The decision to make a coaching change, right or wrong, has already been made. So has the decision move to FBS.
It’s been nice to win. But now it’s time to grow up, and it’s going to be painful.
Michael Gebelein is sports editor of the Lincoln Times-News.