Andy Talley: Walking Tall

Nathan McGann

Head Coach Andy Talley’s quiet office serves as a testament to the man who has been behind that desk for 24 seasons.

The walls surrounding the secretary are lined with more than a dozen photos of past Villanova greats, as well as awards given to those players. The front desk nicely displays the 2002 Division 1-AA semifinalist trophy.

Talley’s office contains championship rings, Coach of the Year awards and shelves upon shelves of books and papers, all related to his trade. One could be convinced that this office belongs in a BCS school’s athletic department, and yet here it sits along the edges of Villanova Stadium.

In his 29 years of coaching, the past 24 at Villanova, Talley has seen and accomplished everything this game has to offer. He is the winningest coach in school history, fifth on the FCS all-time wins list for active coaches and became the winningest coach in conference history last season passing former UNH mentor Bill Bowes.

In 2008, Talley led the Wildcats to a 10-3 record overall, 7-1 in the top conference in the country. Making its seventh playoff appearance under Talley’s lead, Villanova advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament and earned its head coach AFCA Regional Coach of the Year honors, as well as the Field Turf/Howie Long FCS National Coach of the Year award. A total of 15 players from last year’s team were awarded All-Conference recognition, including defensive end Greg Miller, who was named a first team All-American.

As last season came to an end, it was clear that Talley had once again overachieved. He had taken the football team of a small, basketball-crazed school to within one win of attaining a No. 1 overall seed in the postseason tournament. But no one seemed to notice. The Hall-of-Fame-caliber coach flew under the radar yet again.

This year seems different. As Talley prepares for his 25th season on the Main Line, expectations are running high. He is no longer the coach of an up-and- coming program that can put together a string of nice seasons. Instead, he is now the winningest coach in conference history at the head of a team with not only aspirations of a CAA championship, but also a national title. For once, the spotlight is falling on Villanova, and basketball plays no part.

“The expectation level of people around the program is extremely high,” Talley said. “And the players always have a high expectation level, and that’s because we play in a very top-heavy league.”

With such high expectations and unusual attention, it is only natural for players and coaches to feel the pressure or a bit of heat prior to the kickoff of tonight’s opener against Division I opponent Temple. But under the watchful eye of an experienced coach like Talley, nothing has changed.

“This season is business as usual,” Talley said. “I’ve always been a coach that has stayed under the radar. In 1997, I was National Coach of the Year, and no one knew anything about it. What you try to do is instead of letting it bother you, you try to reinforce what you are doing with the program.”

No matter how this season unfolds, Talley, despite the awards, honors and accolades, determines success not in numbers of wins and losses, but by greater things, such as graduation rates and exposure. He recognizes that these Wildcats not only have to compete with one of the top basketball programs in the country, but also the devoted following of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. The mere fact that he is being asked questions about different expectations and pressure this team has never really seen before puts a smile on his face. After 25 years, Talley and Villanova football have begun to branch out.

The acclaimed coach is more than willing to point out that the attention paid to the various professional teams, as well as the Villanova basketball team, can be used to further his work as a football coach.

While some coaches would be envious of this school’s basketball success, Talley turns it into a positive factor when recruiting athletes from across the country. While he may fly under the radar, nothing gets past him.

Behind the chair in his office hangs a framed photograph and quotation from former Green Bay Packers head coach and Hall of Famer Vince Lombardi. Talley says it was a gift from his two children, and the title of the quote on the photograph reads “What it takes to be number one.”

“One of the people I admired as a young coach was Vince Lombardi,” Talley said. “All of the coaches of my era grew up watching Lombardi.”

It is poignant that Talley, the man who has done so much while coaching at Villanova, draws his inspiration from another coaching veteran.

Although their styles vary and their achievements have come in different venues, Lombardi has certainly played a role in Talley’s development as a head coach. If his office says anything, it is that Talley certainly knows “what it takes to be number one.”