Calhoun to replace DeBerry at Air Force

Updated: December 22, 2006, 11:47 PM ET
Associated Press

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Former Air Force starting quarterback Troy Calhoun will replace Fisher DeBerry as head coach of the Falcons.

Calhoun, who started for DeBerry in 1986, had been an assistant coach with the Denver Broncos before joining Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans this season. Calhoun is a 1989 Air Force graduate -- the first former Air Force player to coach the Falcons.

"Our thought going into this was Fisher DeBerry had been here for 27 years, head coach for 23. And during that time he has inspired, trained, taught, motivated, produced not just leaders for the Air Force but leaders for the NCAA athletic community," Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh said during a news conference.

"Troy Calhoun I believe is at the pinnacle of that group of folks Fisher DeBerry produced and so we are proud that he would accept this offer from us to be our next head coach," he said.

Calhoun replaces DeBerry, who retired Dec. 15. Calhoun is only the sixth head coach for Air Force, joining a list that includes Bill Parcells and Ken Hatfield.

Calhoun, 38, began his coaching career with Air Force and continued at Ohio University and Wake Forest.

He caught on with the Broncos in 2003 as a defensive assistant and became an offense-special teams assistant in 2004. Last season, his title was "assistant to the head coach" for Mike Shanahan.

"Ultimately, this came down to deep down, in the heart, inside that chest cavity, you realize that hey, this is the academy and here's a chance to go back and coach and work with the kids and at the same time get a chance to probably cross paths with a few more teammates and old friends, too," Calhoun said of his decision to leave the NFL. "It's a place where as a graduate you're extremely proud to return in whatever capacity."

Calhoun, who had talked with DeBerry before the selection, will remain with the Texans during the remaining two games of their season.

The 68-year-old DeBerry finished with three straight losing seasons and two big controversies in his final years.

"I think Troy is going to reinstill the kind of fire and passion that has been missing over the past couple of years," Mueh said, without elaborating.

DeBerry spent 27 years at the school, including four as an assistant coach. His 169-109-1 record made him the winningest coach in Air Force history and he 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).

Calhoun also has some big shoes to fill in the Commander-in-Chief's trophies awarded to the winner of the annual service academy rivalry. DeBerry was 35-11 against Army and Navy and led Air Force to 14 trophies, though he lost his grip on the trophy as Navy won it the last four years.

But DeBerry also had problems off the field in recent years.

In 2005, he was criticized after a 48-10 loss to TCU when he said Air Force didn't have enough "Afro-American" players, singling them out for being able to run well. DeBerry was reprimanded by top brass at the academy and offered a public apology.

In 2004, academy officials asked him to remove a banner from the locker room that included the lines "I am a Christian first and last ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."

During his nine-minute farewell news conference, DeBerry mentioned his faith, thanking "my Master Coach for leading us to Colorado 26 years ago."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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