Head football coach Gary Steele announced his resignation Tuesday at an afternoon press conference in Weightman Hall, just three days after the final game of the 1991 season. Steele compiled a 9-21 record in three seasons as head coach, including a 2-8 campaign this fall -- the Quakers' worst in a decade. Having just completed the final season of his three-year contract, Steele ended rampant speculation about his future with the announcement Tuesday. "The reasons are myriad and personal and I hope you will all understand my decision not to delve into them," he added. Steele inherited a program synonymous with Ivy League success in March 1989, but produced just nine victories in the past three years. The team's record during his tenure led to concern among alumni and fans as to where the program is headed. "I'd like to make it clear that I do not feel that the Pennsylvania football program is in a state of disarray," Athletic Director Paul Rubincam said. "I believe that we can contend for the Ivy title almost immediately." Rubincam said a committee would be formed immediately to coordinate a "national search" for Steele's replacement. The athletic director said he hoped to have a new coach within six weeks. "We want to hire a new coach as soon as possible," Rubincam said. "But we also want to be sure we are getting the right person. We will give the new head coach a great deal of latitude in hiring a new staff." Steele's eight assistant coaches have been retained for the time being and linebacker coach Ray Priore has been placed in charge of recruiting. "Some of the present staff may remain with us, but on the other hand, maybe all will go," Rubincam said. "I would like to think there will be some familiar faces on the next staff." Steele made his final decision in the wake of the team's 14-13 victory over Cornell last Saturday. He told his staff of his intention to resign after informing Rubincam Monday. Rubincam said he and Steele never discussed any possible contract extension because Steele snuffed the possibility with his decision to resign. Steele said he regretted not having an opportunity to address the team as a whole before the press conference. "I regret the timing of the decision coming on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday," Steele said. "But I do plan to address them as a team on Monday when they arrive back on campus." Three players -- sophomore linebacker Andy Berlin, junior running back Sundiata Rush and junior fullback Bill Knapp -- were present at the press conference. "I'm sorry it happened the way it did," Berlin said. "He gave all he could to the program. But it's obviously time for a change. Hopefully, the new coach will bring in new optimism -- something this program sorely needs." "I'm going to miss him," said Knapp, who met with Steele prior to the announcement. "He's a players' coach. He's one of the few coaches I've had that could get you fired up each week. We've been through so much adversity this year. He's taking this with a lot of class and dignity and I think he'll bounce back." Steele admitted his future at Penn became murkier during the year, as his team suffered heartbreak after heartbreak, losing five games by less than eight points. By season's end, he knew it was time to confront the issue. "Any time that you're not being as successful as you want, those thoughts enter your mind," he said. "At different times through the year, with the frustrations that we've had, you start scratching your head and wondering. I tried not to really look at that stuff and think about it too much until once we got through the season. "During the season, you're too preoccupied with everything to really entertain a lot of things. There was a process I started doing Sunday morning." A nine-year veteran of the Penn staff, the 40-year-old Steele was Penn's defensive coordinator from 1986 to 1988 when the Quakers won two Ivy League championships. He was the team's 20th head coach, replacing Ed Zubrow, who resigned after three seasons to accept a position in the Philadelphia public school system. At the beginning of his three-year tenure, Steele seemed prepared to duplicate the success of his predecessors, who had notched six of the last seven League titles. In October 1989, his Quakers were sporting a 4-1 mid-season mark and were in contention when they ventured to Yale. But after dropping a 23-22 heartbreaker on a last-second Yale field goal, the team went into a tailspin. It lost its last five games of the season to end at 4-6. Since that defeat at the Yale Bowl, Penn lost 15 of its next 20 games. After Penn's all-time leading passer, Malcolm Glover, finished his career with the Quakers in 1989, Steele and the team became embroiled in a continuing quarterback controversy. Last season, Steele employed a chaotic three-signal caller rotation en route to a lackluster 3-7 season. This year, the Penn coach again never committed himself to either of two quarterbacks -- junior Fitz McKinnon and sophomore Jim McGeehan. Instead, he opted to make a weekly evaluation at the position. It didn't work. The Quakers were humiliated by lowly Columbia in October. They blew an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter against Lehigh. Saturday after Saturday, Penn seemed unable to win the close games. And now, the Quakers seem far removed from the glories of the '80s. "If anybody looks where we're at and looks how close we've been the last two years," Steele claimed, "it's not like we're down at the bottom or we've got to start over and rebuild. I don't think the foundation is any worse off than it was three years ago. I'm not going to say it's any better but I certainly don't think it's any worse off. The opportunity for success is certainly here."Comments powered by Disqus
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