Football head coach resigns

Football head coach resigns

Don Roney has announced his resignation after 10 seasons as head football coach at the University of St. Thomas.

Roney said he came to his decision earlier this month, but didn’t share his intentions with his players and staff until a postseason meeting yesterday afternoon. The 2007 Tommies lost their final four games and finished with a 2-8 record.

Don Roney

St. Thomas athletics director Steve Fritz said a search for Roney’s successor would begin immediately.

“We’re grateful to Don for his many years and many contributions to St. Thomas, as a student-athlete, assistant coach and head coach,” Fritz said. “He’s been a strong ambassador for St. Thomas, and has been a positive influence on his players, on the field and off.”

Roney’s 54-44 overall mark in 10 seasons included a 52-32 record vs. conference teams, and six top-three finishes in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He coached four All-Americans and had five players invited to elite AFCA Division III Aztec Bowl.

St. Thomas players won Academic All-America honors nine times in Roney’s first nine seasons – including a national-best three in 2005 – and currently has a team GPA of 3.07. He coached two of the four players in MIAC football history to win $18,000 postgraduate scholarships by the National Football Foundation – Andrew Hilliard and P.J. Theisen. In Roney’s era, St. Thomas was the lone team at any level of college football to have a player named to the American Football Coaches' Association (AFCA) Good Works Team in each of the last 10 seasons.

Roney said he’s proud of what his players have accomplished over the years – in the classroom, on campus and on the field. But the coach said St. Thomas fell short of its ultimate goal to win a championship and make an NCAA playoff appearance.

“I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of a lot of different winning programs in my athletics career,” Roney said. “We had the same high standards here with football, but it just didn’t come together liked we wanted. I’ve coached some tremendous players and people, and worked with skilled and dedicated coaches. Everyone worked hard trying to make it happen.

“I love St. Thomas, and I think it’s time to move aside and let someone else get a chance to run the program. Hopefully that person can build on what’s in place and eventually take the Tommies to an MIAC football championship.”

St. Thomas, which had a record number of players this season (135), will graduate only 14 seniors. The Tommies could return as many as 20 players with starting experience.

While MIAC football has seen dramatic improvements in facilities and coaching staffs, Roney said the new head coach will come into a program with excellent potential. The coach pointed to strong UST recruiting classes in 2006 and 2007, and the list of 2008 prospects who are already considering St. Thomas.

Roney and his wife, Shannon, have four sons – ages 9 through 13 – and the coach said that played into his decision. “There are a lot of sacrifices that come with coaching, and kids grow up in a hurry,” he said. “On some recent game-day Saturdays our sons had three football games, hockey tryouts, and basketball tryouts.”

Roney said he’ll take some time to consider career opportunities. “I love coaching and working with young people, so we’ll see if it works out to remain in coaching,” he said.

The Tommies concluded an up-and-down 2-8 season with Saturday’s loss at St. Olaf. The Tommie offense had a total offense advantage in seven of the 10 games but committed 31 turnovers in eight defeats. The UST defense went through growing pains as it regularly started nine freshmen or sophomores. The Tommies scored 25 touchdowns and averaged 34 points per game in the last five games, yet went 1-4 in that span as opponents averaged 46 points per game.

Four losses came to teams with a combined 36-4 record, including a 19-18 defeat to conference champ Bethel. The Tommies also scored five TDs in Collegeville on St. John’s vaunted defense, outgained the Johnnies 453-419 yards, and were in the game until the final minutes of a 51-34 loss. St. Thomas also outgained 10-0 Central in the season-opening game, but the Dutch scored 21 points on special teams and defense in a 35-10 win.

In an injury-plagued, rebuilding season of 2003, Roney's team nearly pulled the greatest upset in school history as it lost 15-12 on the game's final play to eventual NCAA champion St. John's. The Toms led 12-7 with under 4:00 to play. That was the first time in 26 games that St. John's was held to one touchdown and held under 20 points.

Roney replaced Mal Scanlan in 1998 after a 12-year career as a UST assistant coach. The Robbinsdale High graduate also was head football coach at North Hennepin Community College (1985-88). After a 3-5 record and a squad of 30 players in his first season, Roney doubled his roster and led his team to a victory in the Royal Crown Bowl and the No. 10 national JUCO ranking in his third year. North Hennepin was 19-16 during Roney’s era.

Roney also worked as pitching coach for the St. Thomas baseball team from 1989-2000. In his last six seasons, working with head baseball coach Dennis Denning, Roney was a part of six NCAA playoff teams, four MIAC championships and an overall mark of 216-59. The 1999 and 2000 Tommie baseball squads made conference history as they went all the way to the NCAA Division III championship game and placed second nationally both seasons. Roney also accompanied UST on an historic trip to Havana, Cuba, in January 2000.