AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Fisher DeBerry dumped a box of belongings from his office into his SUV and drove off slowly with wife LuAnn, leaving behind the campus he loved along with a lot of unanswered questions.
The 68-year-old DeBerry retired Friday after 23 years as Air Force's football coach, finishing with three straight losing seasons and two big controversies in his final years.
DeBerry, whose 169-109-1 record made him the winningest coach in Air Force history, had the third-longest tenure at one school of any active college coach, after Joe Paterno (41 years at Penn State) and Bobby Bowden (31 years at Florida State).
Coming off a third straight losing season for the first time in his 23 years at the academy, DeBerry read a prepared statement at a news conference, then walked off without taking questions.
|DeBerry had the third-longest tenure at one school of any active college coach. (AP)|
He briefly hugged athletic director Hans Meuh on his way out of the Falcon Athletic Center Hall of Excellence.
Meuh demurred when asked if DeBerry had been pressured to make changes on his staff.
"We had our normal end-of-season discussion. We met a couple of times and talked about it and bounced ideas back and forth and ultimately, Fisher just decided that it was time," Meuh said. "Coming from the military, you always know when it's time to put your papers in to retire."
Safety Bobby Giannini said DeBerry told his players in an emotional half-hour meeting Friday morning before finals that he wanted to spend more time with his family -- his two children and five grandchildren live in Oklahoma.
"And I sincerely believe that. He's always been straightforward with us and wouldn't lie to us about that," Giannini said. "He's wants to spend more time with his family and after 44 years of one job, I don't blame him for that."
Senior quarterback Shaun Carney, the point man in the Falcons' triple-option offense, said he didn't think DeBerry was nudged out the door, either.
"He talked about how his family played such an integral role in his decision, how he wanted to be there for his children, his grandchildren as they grew up," Carney said. "I really think the decision was more about his family than it was about him."
Still, several players said they were blindsided by DeBerry's decision.