Full transcript of Athletic Director Lynn Hickey’s Press Conference on Head Coach Larry Coker’s departure:
“We are here today because we’ve had a very good man and coach make a decision to step away as the leader of our football program. What is important about that is that Coach Coker wasn’t just a successful coach, he was what you what call significant. He was the total package. He is a gentleman. He is a coach. He is a teacher. He is a friend. He is a mentor. So I’m very, very thankful for his leadership. He made history, not just here at UTSA but at a national level with the start up of this program. No one has ever done this before and I am guess that no one will probably ever will again. It’s just not going to happen again. I’m just so thankful that I had an opportunity to work with a person that was this much of a class act. We were just very, very fortunate that his family became such an asset to not only our campus but the entire city of San Antonio. We’re very thankful for he and Diana, and their daughter Lara and her family. They just jumped in and became great Roadrunners. They jumped into that blue and orange. So we have been very, very fortunate to have had a relationship with a man like this.”
Why did he step down?
“We’ve had seven years of a great relationship. He has done some amazing things for us. We didn’t have a marching band, we didn’t even have a fight song until Larry Coker got here. So the energy and visibility that he brought, not only to our athletic program but to the university as a whole has been outstanding. As we visited at the end of the season, we’ve had a number of conversations. There’s just a number of factors. As you move through a season and you move through a coaching career, you’re’ always gauging where you’re at and what’s the next best thing to do. There were a lot of factors that were involved. I really want to respect his privacy and not get into the details and specifics. But I can guarantee this, it was a very personal decision, it was a very difficult decision, but his decision was based on the commitment and caring he has of this program and of wanting this program to grow into the best it can be.”
Did the timing of this catch you off guard, did you expect this?
“There are a lot of major decisions in our life that there’s never the right time, a good time. There have been discussions, we have been looking at things. I just go back to, again, that he, there have discussions ,we have been looking at things to gather the information and maybe gather what phase of the program we were in. Once again, as Larry Coker always was, he was totally unselfish. He always put the program infront of himself. The timing of why, when, I just think everything had developed and he felt this was the best thing to do. I think the great assest that we have is that this is a great job. We’re not going to have a problem hiring a coach. The standard that we have is that we have the responsibility to hire someone that will get us the same impact and leadership that a Larry Coker did. That’s going to be on us, but we’re going to have a great opportunity to hire a really good coach. Will there be some difficulty with a January 14 start? Sure, but we will work through that. With the quality of people that we will have on this staff, they will very quickly be able to get us back on track and we will be able to work through that.”
Are you saying he was not asked to leave?
“I just go back to what I said awhile ago. We had a great relationship, we’ve worked together for almost seven years. There were just a number of factors in looking at timing. This was a decision that Coach Coker made that he felt was best for the program.”
It was not long ago that Larry Coker decided to fire Offensive Coordinator Kevin Brown. So it’s not that long ago that he made his decision, correct?
“Right. Like I said, I just think there were a number of factors and a number of conversations in just looking at what phase of the program we are in. The more we discussed and looked at things, this was, he felt, the best decision to make. Once again, he’s making decisions based on what he wants to see happen for the program.”
Is Defensive Coordinator Neal Neathery on the staff?
“As far as I know, he still is. But he did have an interview. I can’t speak to the other university wants him or not until that other university puts out a release. But he did have an interview.”
Do you think Larry woke up this morning and was faced with the prospect of replacing two coordinators?
“I don’t think anything is too daunting for Coach Coker. You wouldn’t have done all of the things he’s done here unless he’s had quite a bit of courage. I think there were a variety of things and a number of different factors but I don’t think it was one thing or another.”
Were there any health concerns or aliments?
“For me to speak to health issues, that’s very personal and that’s not appropriate to make a comment on that for Coach Coker. He has been a very dynamic person that has always given us a lot of energy. Anybody that can get up at five o’clock to go to football practice, you were probably okay. But I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to speak to health issue.”
How important will stature be for Coach Coker’s replacement?
“We’re going to work with a search firm because, as you all reflected on, the timing and the urgency. We’ve never used a search firm before. When we hired Larry, I think we took about six or eight weeks. I did my girl-thing to really check out everything. We can’t do that now. We are building a profile of what we want out of this position. There’s a number of things that we want on there. The great thing that Coach Coker has done is that he’s established a program that is well-respected and that is a gold-mine. This city and this program, the potential that we have here to continue to grow, and some day getting to the next step is almost mindboggling. To find someone that has a lot of energy that can keep the energy that Coach Coker started, keeping that going, the relationships in the city are important, that can be a recruiter, that is a great teacher on the field. We are still in a situation with our program with a lot of our student athletes, we need to coach them up. I don’t think that’s bad. I think TCU has shown that has worked out well. So there’s a variety of things that we’re going to look on this. I think the quality of people that are going to apply for this job has been moved to another level because of Larry Coker. So anytime you lose anyone of his stature, the net hire is made even better and you have the opportunity to go to a whole other level. Coaches that we never had 7 or 8 years ago.”
What’s going to happen with the rest of his contract, was a buyout reached?
“We are still negotiating that. So I don’t have the terms. We’re still talking what all we will work out with that. We are looking at this contract. He and I are working what is appropriate for the closing out of his contract.”
If this was his decision, why was he not here addressing media?
“That was his decision too, not to be here today. I think it’s been a pretty emotional day. I think he felt most comfortable putting a release. He’s done a letter to the team, he’s done a voicemail to the team. At this point in time, I just think he felt most comfortable with that. This is tough. You’re talking about someone who gave us seven years of his life and has done something that no one thought that was ever possible. When you come to this decision, to just walk in front of a set of camera and microphones would have been really, really difficult. He was very gracious, as see with his comments. But this was tough, this was very personal for him.”
At the end of the season, were you aware that this decision was a possibility?
“No. I did not think of that at the end of the season. We’ve had a lot of conversations and continued to look at all of the different factors. But no, six, seven weeks ago, I would not have thought that.”
Is name recognition important in a candidate?
“The most important thing is the kind of person they are and the background they have. I think we really want to look at people that have been taught well and have maybe come from really good experiences. It’s huge in the state of Texas to connect with high school coaches, so that will be a big factor. I don’t know if that means you have to have a big name or you just come from a program where you know how to build this and continue momentum. This is a building process. One of the things that will be important is to look at people who have those qualities and want to come in and pull their sleeves up and jump right in to making some things happen. We know we still have some resources we need to add to the program.”
Has anyone reached out to you already?
“We had this great timeline today and then because there was this one little message that got out, it kind of messed up our structure. So, yes. I have been contacted by coaches from all over the country already. So the interest is high. We’re not going to have a lack of people to recruit from. It’s going to be very important that we have the search firm really filter this out quickly so that we can come up with some pretty specific candidates as soon as possible.”
What is the time frame for hiring a new coach?
“We talked to them (the search firm) about a 10 to 12 day process. They feel that’s very possible. So that would be extremely helpful because that coach will to start determining staff. And we will work really hard to promote the staff people that we have here. We have some really good people that are here and we want to give them an opportunity with the new coach. We will work very, very hard to do that. The most difficult part of this process besides losing a great person like Coach is that it affects a multitude of families. It’s just really, really difficult. So we want to do that as best we can. But I think we’re going to be able to move fairly quickly. We have an advantage that the national coaches association meeting is here in San Antonio. So we’re going to have a collection of people here. It’s not a perfect scenario but because of the quality of this job, because of where we are located, we’re going to be in good shape, we’re going to be able to be fine.”
"In closing I just want to say, we started this whole process with one football and a helmet. How cool is it that we’re in here today and we’re worried about and we’re looking at coaches all over the country contacting us about the job and we’re FBS in Conference USA and the idea of winning a conference championship and getting to a bowl game for the first time is extremely real. Thank you Larry Coker. It’s just unbelievable what he brought our program.”