Bower resigns as Southern Miss coach after 14th winning season
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Jeff Bower ended one of college football's longest coaching runs Monday when he resigned at Southern Mississippi.
Bower capped his 14th consecutive winning season Saturday and ends a 29-year relationship as player and coach with the Golden Eagles despite accepting his 10th bowl invitation in the last 11 seasons.
Though he resigned after 17 years as head coach, a terse Bower did not sound like it was completely voluntary.
"I want you to know there's a lot of fight left in Jeff Bower, and I am not done yet," the grim-faced coach said.
Bower did not take questions after making a short statement flanked by his wife and daughter. He resigned earlier Monday after meeting with athletic director Richard Giannini.
Giannini said fan discontent had grown during a season when the Golden Eagles were expected to win the Conference USA title, but fell short at 7-5.
"I said all along I was disappointed and people were disappointed in the season, and I don't change that statement," Giannini said.
Bower was 119-82-1 as the school's head coach and had been in the same job longer than all but three coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Only Penn State's Joe Paterno (42), Bobby Bowden (32) of Florida State and Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer (21) have longer tenures with their schools. His only losing seasons came in 1991 and '93.
Bower will coach the Golden Eagles in the Papajohns.com Bowl on Dec. 22 in Birmingham.
Center Rick Thompson said players were shocked by the decision and had not heard the rumors circulating through this small community that Giannini and boosters were upset with Bower's performance.
Bower talked with the team in what Thompson described as an "intense" meeting.
"I'm glad he's staying for the bowl," Thompson said. "He's just a great coach, a great person. That's the way it should be, going out and coaching the last game."
Giannini said he will lead the search for the new coach and will begin immediately.
Picked to win Conference USA, the Golden Eagles stumbled to a 2-3 start and needed two victories at the end of the year to finish with a winning record.
Southern Miss' stretch of winning seasons is second only to Florida State (31), Michigan (23), Florida (20) and Virginia Tech (15).
Bower built one of the nation's most powerful mid-majors, hitting the road to play tough competition from Bowl Championship Series conference teams and often coming home a winner.
Southern Miss scored upsets over several FBS teams, including Southeastern Conference powers LSU, Georgia, Alabama and Auburn.
His most successful year of upsets came in 2000 when the Golden Eagles beat Alabama, Oklahoma State and TCU.
Bower guided the Golden Eagles to three outright Conference USA championships and one shared league title. He was named the conference's coach of the decade in 2004 and was coach of the year in 1997, 1999 and 2003.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press