BOCA RATON – In the end, the decision came down to the most basic of football statistics: wins and losses. Charlie Partridge had too few of the former and not nearly enough of the latter.
His third 3-9 season in as many years prompted FAU on Sunday morning to relieve Partridge of his duties as football coach.
On Sunday evening athletic director Pat Chun met with the media, singing the praises of most everything Partridge did – save for about four hours on Saturdays in the fall.
“It was a full analysis of 36 games and we just weren’t where we thought we should be based on the talent we have,” Partridge said.
Chun informed Partridge of the decision less than 24 hours after the Owls completed their regular season with a 77-56 loss at Middle Tennessee.
Partridge leaves FAU with a career 9-27 record.
“There just comes a point where a day like this has to happen,” Chun said. “Time can be our ally or be our enemy in a coaching search. We knew that a decision would have to be communicated today in order for us to move expeditiously forward with our football program.”
Chun said Partridge accepted the news with class and dignity.
“He hugged me when he left,” Chun said. “That’s Charlie Partridge in a nut shell.”
In a setting with at atmosphere more like a memorial than a rebirth, Chun constantly praised the job Partridge did when it came to recruiting, building the program, and creating a culture that understood the importance of academics.
Everything but winning.
“He instilled a pride in our football team,” Chun said. “He created a culture here. We have a football program filled with student athletes that understand the year-round commitment needed to compete not only at the FBS level of football but for success in life.”
Sunday was a day unlike one ever experienced by FAU. It marked the first time in the program’s 16-year history that the Owls fired a head coach after the season.
Howard Schnellenberger resigned before the the start of the 2011 season, effective at the year’s end. Carl Pelini resigned, then was later fired, by Chun in the middle of the 2013 season amid drug allegations. Brian Wright took over as interim coach that year and was a candidate for the full-time gig but that job ultimately went to Partridge, with Wright staying on as offensive coordinator.
“I believe perspective and time will be very kind to Charlie Partridge,” Chun said. “He has left the football program 180 degrees better than he found it.”
By Sunday night Partridge had stripped his Twitter profile picture and background photo of FAU images. A little after 10 p.m. he thanked fans, friends and players for their support, tweeting:
“Fans, friends, coworkers and most importantly players, thank you from the bottom of my heart. My experience here went beyond 36 Saturdays. I became a coach to change lives and teach ball. I also wanted to win games, just did not do it fast enough. The stage is set, the next staff will do amazing things. To any I may have blocked on Twitter, it was never personal, just avoiding negative thoughts. I know you love FAU as much as I do. Go Owls!!”
Chun met with most of the players late Sunday afternoon to explain his decision to them.
He told them they were better than a 3-9 team and it was his job to ensure they had a coach who could maximize their talent.
“It was a very healthy conversation,” he said. “I’m probably more affirmed about the direction of our program after the team meeting that we had because we have a bunch of young men that are committed to getting this thing right.”
Chun was the only FAU representative to speak to the media. Executive Associate Athletic Director Melissa Dawson, Chun’s second in command, and former interim university president Dennis Crudele also attended the press conference.
FAU hired Partridge in December of 2013 while Crudele, now retired from the university, was serving as president.
“I was here when Charlie Partridge era started,” Crudele said. “I just thought it was a good thing for me to come to support the program.”
Chun began receiving calls about the vacancy almost as soon as news hit the internet. Chun declined to give specifics about the type of candidate the Owls would look for to replace Partridge, but OwlAccess.com has learned that FAU would prefer an offensive-minded coach who has experience at the coordinator level or higher.
The highest Partridge had risen was co-defensive coordinator at Wisconsin. He came to FAU from Arkansas where he was the Razorbacks defensive line coach.
Chun did not put a timeline on the search.
“We’re going to work expeditiously,” Chun said. “The reality is we are going to go through a process and we’re going to end up with the best coach that we could find to lead our program.”