Tiger fans have long been clamoring for R.C. Johnson to retire, and at Monday’s press conference, after 16 long years of ups and downs, he did just that. Johnson was not the only member of the athletic department to bid farewell on Monday, as head football coach Larry Porter was fired after two seasons.
Memphis president Dr. Shirley Raines and Johnson fielded questions about the football team’s future with ease at the press conference, but finding a new coach and new AD will be anything but easy. A hiring firm will be used to aid in this process, and the list of coaching possibilities range from first year coach Hugh Freeze to freshly fired Houston Nutt.
Mr. Johnson’s decision to retire was one that he has been thinking about for a while. “It was not really difficult. I love the university and enjoyed my time here. But I knew this was coming,” he said. While there are plenty of R.C. detractors out there they had no effect on his decision to retire at the end of June. In fact, he can not pin point one incident that made it clear that it was time for him to retire. “It was just a process… my wife and I are not getting any younger, I have been doing it a long time. You know 33 years to be an athletic director is quite a while,” he said.
However, before he leaves his last task will be aiding in finding a new Tiger football coach to replace Coach Porter.
Mr. Johnson stated several times during the press conference that the 44-7 loss to Southern Miss in the Tiger’s finale had nothing to do with the decision to fire Coach Porter. Rather, the decision was made because the program was not making the progress that it needed to make in Porter’s short two year tenure. “It was not just the last game,” he said, “it is an ongoing process and we continued to evaluate the program.”
Since Larry Porter took over as head coach two years ago the program has struggled tremendously. The Tigers have gone a woeful 3-21 in his tenure and have struggled to be competitive in their games, losing by an average margin of 27 points.
The decision to let Coach Porter go was made especially difficult because he was an alumni and cared deeply about the program, “Most of the time when you have to let a coach go it is generally pretty clear cut,” Johnson stated, “this time it was not. I do not know if there is a right or a wrong, but you have to do what you think is best.”
When asked about what type of qualities Memphis is looking for in a head coach, Johnson had no definite answer, but he made it clear that Memphis wants the best possible candidate. “In the grand scheme of things you would love to bring in Vince Lombardi… it’s a matter of getting someone in here that can do it, maybe not a big name. In an ideal word you try to do that so you can get a big splash,” he said.
While we do not know who the head coach will be or the name of the next AD, we do know that it is going to be an interesting offseason for the Tiger football program.
CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from different college football games throughout the Mid-South.