Rich Ellerson, a Salpointe Catholic graduate who arrived at the University of Arizona in 1992 with schematic ideas that formed the base of the program’s famed Desert Swarm defenses, was fired Sunday after five seasons as the head coach at Army.
Ellerson had two stints with the Wildcats — 1992 to 1995 as the defensive line coach and 1997 to 2000 as the defensive coordinator.
He’s not the only former Arizona assistant instrumental in the program’s success during the Dick Tomey era who is caught up in the coaching carousel.
Duane Akina was at Tomey’s side for the entirety of his 14-year run in Tucson, mostly as defensive backs coach, although Akina also was offensive coordinator from 1992 to 1995.
Akina has been part of the Texas coaching staff since 2001 (never mind that he was back on the Arizona staff under Mike Stoops for about a month after the 2010 season before returning to the Longhorns), but there will be new leadership in Austin. Head coach Mack Brown stepped down this weekend.
Akina has coached three winners of the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back, including Arizona’s Darryll Lewis in 1990. He also coached Chris McAlister, who probably should have won in 1998.
Tomey once told me Akina is “the most unselfish coach I’ve ever been around.”
When Akina was Arizona’s offensive coordinator in 1995, he volunteered to move back to defense if Tomey could bring in renowned Homer Smith to lead the offense. Then, Akina was in line to be defensive coordinator in 1997 but said he’d stay as secondary coach if Tomey could bring back Ellerson as coordinator.
Akina, remarkably for an assistant coach, has worked at only two places for two head coaches in the past 27 seasons. Now, could be on the move after changes at Texas.
Here is a USA Today story on the dismissal of Ellerson:
Rich Ellerson is out at Army following a 3-9 season and a 12th consecutive loss to Navy, athletic director Boo Corrigan announced Sunday.
The Black Knights lost to Navy on Saturday 34-7. Ellerson was 20-41 in five seasons at West Point.
“This is a very difficult day for all of us at West Point,” Corrigan stated in making the announcement. “Rich Ellerson has represented West Point and the Army football program extremely well since taking over as our head coach five years ago. He has been a tremendous role model for our cadet-athletes and great mentor for many within the athletic department.
“Unfortunately, our team has not experienced the level of success on the football field that we expect, and we feel it is necessary to make a change in leadership at this time.”
Corrigan said that a search for Ellerson’s replacement will begin immediately. Deputy Military Athletic Director Col. Joe DeAntona will assume day-to-day operations of the football program until a new head coach is named.
Army has had four head coaches during the 12-game Navy run. First there was Todd Berry, then Bobby Ross, then Stan Brock and now Ellerson. (Make that five if you count interim coach John Mumford, 0-7 after replacing Berry during a 0-13 season in 2003.)
In 2010, his second season at Army, Ellerson led the Black Knights to their first winning season (7-6) and bowl berth since 1996. He was rewarded with a two-year contract extension through 2015. Since then, Army has gone 3-9, 2-10 and 3-9.
Ellerson, who went 56-34 as head coach at Cal Poly from 2001 to 2008, is the son of a West Point graduate and career Army officer. One of his brothers captained the 1962 Army team. Another brother graduated from West Point.