Talley announces retirement



Eugene Rapay

Andy Talley has been in many press conferences over his 31 years at Villanova. However, the head coach of the football program never had one like the kind he did last week. 

The small, cozy Pavilion press room was crammed with many people taking advantage of the remaining standing room. Reporters, current and former players and some friends and family were there in attendance to witness the changing of the guard.

On that Wednesday afternoon, Andy Talley announced that he would retire after the upcoming 2016 season.

“It has been a privilege to be the head football coach at Villanova University for the last 31 years,” Talley said. “As we move into my final season, the future is bright. I am proud of all of our players past and present, as well as the assistant coaches that have worked with me.”

During his time at Villanova, he compiled a record of 221-133-1. 

He has taken the Wildcats to the NCAA playoffs 11 times and has led them to six conference championships, three ECAC Team of the Year awards, three national semifinal appearances and, of course, a national title in 2009.

His accomplishments have not gone unnoticed by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). He earned two AFCA Coach of the Year awards and received AFCA Region Coach of the Year honors three times.

Talley’s mentorship and coaching has helped produce over a dozen first-team All-Americans in the program and over 200 players who have garnered all-Conference accolades. Twenty student-athletes were recognized for their achievement on the field and in the classroom at the national level, earning Academic All-American honors.

The program also boasts an unprecedented three Walter Peyton Award winners, a distinction given to the best player at the FCS playoff.  It also has one Jerry Rice Award recipient.

“He’s dedicated,” former Villanova football player Hezekiah Lewis said.

Lewis knows a thing or two about the football program. He played for Talley from 1995-2000 and was named captain of the team in his senior year. He was a part of the 1997 team that was the first squad to go undefeated in program history in the regular season. 

He returned to the University as a professor in the communications department in 2007 and still maintains his close ties to the program.

“Since the football program came back, I had seen many position coaches come and go,” he added. “But I had a sense that he would be a rock. He was a rock that was always there for me and the program.”

It has helped having that cornerstone around. Talley has laid the foundation for restoring the program that was out of commission, setting a standard for high performance on the field, in the classroom and outside within the community.

Players from all generations that have played for Talley do not describe the program as a “factory” or a “powerhouse,” but rather a family.

There is a closeness within every one in the program and an expectation from Talley to mold players into contributing members of society, while still remaining well connected with each other. 

Talley’s office door is always open for his players to come talk about anything – football, school and even life advice. The invitation does not go away even after they graduate.

“He’s not just there for wins, or X’s and O’s,” Lewis said. “He’s there for life and someone who will be there for you always.”

Many players and alumni feel compelled to give back to the program or visit once in a while. So far construction is under way to build the biggest facilities upgrade for Villanova football.

Construction began for the West End Zone project this past summer to build a whole new facility that would house football operations, the team locker room, and a whole new strength and conditioning center. It is an $18 million project that was made possible through fundraising and donations. 

NFL Hall of Famer and Villanova football alumnus Howie Long donated a million dollars to the project.

It is important to Talley to see his players go on to contribute and give back. A sign hanging in his office bears the message, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.”

When the scoreboard is cleared and the lights of Villanova Stadium are turned off, Coach Talley is far from being done with his day. When he’s not planning for the next big game, coming up with practice schedules, or in the offseason, he focuses on his other big commitment: helping to save lives.

In 1992, he founded the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation. Since then, the foundation has identified 52,000 potential bone marrow donors across 50 universities.

“As far as the foundation is concerned with the bone marrow, I am so committed to saving lives that it’s something I almost can’t do,” Talley said. “We can save lives. I can do just one more thing. I’m addicted.”

The odds of finding bone marrow donors for patients with life threatening blood diseases like leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia are 1-in-20,000. This past season, three Villanova football players donated bone marrow to help save a life – Jake Prus, C.J. Logan, and Jacob Gribb. 

Talley hopes to find more donors and save more lives. Even though he will be stepping down as coach after next season, he will still remain committed to his foundation.

Although he will be retiring as the football team’s head coach after next season, his involvement in the athletics department will continue into 2017. Once he steps down, he will move a couple offices over to serve as a special assistant to Mark Jackson. 

While his role is not clearly defined yet, he still plans on keeping a close eye on the football program and being around the team.

As for his successor, the search didn’t take long, nor did Villanova have to look far. The program will hand the reins over to Talley’s long-time assistant Mark Ferrante, the team’s offensive line and assistant head coach. 

This past season, Ferrante was named the AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year. He has known Talley for most of his life. First becoming acquainted with him as a player for him at St. Lawrence University, where Talley was the head coach at the time.

“During my senior year, Coach Talley would often ask me, ‘What are your plans after you’re done here at St. Lawrence?” Ferrante said. “I really didn’t have a plan for my future beyond graduation. Coach [Talley] is truly the most significant person in my life who has convinced me into coaching college football, and I joined his staff immediately after graduation in the spring of 1983.”

He joined Talley’s staff briefly as an assistant, before leaving to pursue coaching opportunities at Wagner and Lafayette. 

Ferrante and Talley would reunite a few years later in 1987 at Villanova. He has been Talley’s right-hand man ever since.

“Mark [Ferrante] understands Villanova culture is excited to take on the challenge of following Andy [Talley]’s footsteps,” AD Mark Jackson said. “What I am most excited about is having all the intangibles that Mark brings in terms of being a great leader to our football team in the long term.”

Ferrante was emotional at the press conference but that is what has made him one of the best men for the job. He brings an intensity and fiery passion that he has demonstrated on the sidelines during game action or in practice. 

Talley’s protégé will now take the reins from his teacher after next season, and he’s already looking forward to the upcoming year and beyond.

“I would like to say I am extremely excited about this 2016 season, with Coach Talley being our leader,” Ferrante said. “I’m equally excited and perhaps a little nervous about becoming the 30th head coach here at Villanova in the 30th year that I’ll be on campus as a member of this community. Thank you so much, God Bless and go ‘Cats.”