Jim Dennison, longtime football coach and associate athletic director at Walsh University announced his retirement after 53 years as an administrator and 31 as a coach.
Dennison, 74, spent the past 18 years as the first and only head coach of Walsh’s football program. He coached the University of Akron from 1973 to 1985 and is the winningest coach in program history, compiling a record of 80-62-2. He will leave the game with an overall record of 208-139-2. Walsh finished 3-8 this past season, the program’s first in Division II.
“I just felt this was the right time to do this,” Dennison said. “The record had nothing to do with it. With our scores, we were competitive. I just think it’s time to give the reins to someone else.”
Dennison was recruited to Walsh as its director of athletics in June 1993. Then the idea of building Walsh’s first football program was kicked around. Dennison undertook the challenge thinking he’d be there for a couple of years to get things started. He just stuck around a little longer than expected.
“When they called, they said ‘Come be the AD and possibly start a football program,’ ” Dennison said. “I went down as a five-year retirement job, and here it is, nearly 20 years later. So I think that’s a good five years.
“I feel good about how we’re leaving it and I think someone will come in and adjust and carry on. The program has been built. We’ve won 199 games. It’s ready for someone else to come in.”
Like any successful coach, Dennison has his coaching tree. Jim Tressel was a part of his staff for four years at Akron. He gave current Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio his first major coaching job with the Zips. And two of his sons, Greg (48, Wadsworth) and Matt (41, New Philadelphia) are piloting two successful programs at the high school level.
Greg learned to love coaching at an early age. He was able to hang out during Akron two-a-day practices. He says the conversation at family meetings during holidays will eventually turn to football without fail, and the trio regularly bounce ideas off each other to this day. But the personal care, the stuff off the field, was the elder Dennison’s biggest lesson.
“He taught me how to communicate with people, how to treat people,” Greg Dennison said. “A lot of the off-the-field stuff is just as important as what you’re doing on the field.”
Dennison is at peace with the decision, that he was able to accomplish a lot of good in his years as an administrator and coach. He said he’s satisfied and fulfilled.
At staff and team meetings Sunday and Monday, many of those in the organization were shocked the only leader in program history was leaving.
“It caught some by surprise, but it shouldn’t — I’m of retirement age,” he said, half-joking. “I’m going to miss the coaches meetings and the practices and the games. But, this is the 53rd year of doing this. So I think that’s enough.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.