Football's Mills to Leave
Prolific offensive coordinator takes top job in S.C.
Mills, 41, will take over the young and struggling Charleston Southern University squad, the South Carolina school announced last Friday.
Mills has been with Harvard for the past seven seasons and was the primary play-caller for the 2002 campaign.
Although players and coaches were aware that Mills was pursuing outside coaching opportunities, his abrupt departure came as a surprise to some.
Mills did not personally inform players of his decision—most of them found out through head coach Tim Murphy.
“Coach Murphy met with me the next morning,” said sophomore quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. “At first I was a little upset, but once I understood the whole situation, I really don’t think [Mills] had the opportunity to tell us.”
Murphy and Mills had extensively discussed Mills’ desire to ascend the coaching ladder and Murphy supported Mills’ ambitions.
“My philosophy is that when you have a good coach, you have to help them out,” Murphy said. “I was helping him to try and get either a head coaching position or a Division I job.”
At Charleston Southern, Mills will replace David Dowd, who recently resigned as the Buccaneers’ coach after starting their football program 12 seasons ago.
The Buccaneers finished the 2002 season at 4-8 in the Big South Conference. The school has yet to post a winning season, but did have two 5-6 campaigns in 2000 and 2001.
Despite these recent dismal showings, Mills remains optimistic about the future.
“I am excited about the opportunities that exist here at Charlseton Southern, not only for me, but also for my family,” Mills said during Friday’s press conference.
Mills began his career at Harvard when he was hired as the Crimson’s offensive coordinator in 1996. Over the past seven years, Mills grew into his eventual role as primary play-caller, quarterbacks coach and West Coast recruiter for the program.
Before coming to Harvard, Mills was the head coach at the University of Minnesota, Morris, where he guided the team in its move from the NAIA to the NCAA Division II level.
Prior to that, he served in various assistant coaching capacities at Boise State University, Western Washington University and Notre Dame.
Mills directed a well-balanced offense that was ranked No. 8 in the nation last season, finishing 7-3 (6-1 Ivy).
Mills coached two of the most prolific offensive players in school history in quarterback Neil Rose and wide receiver Carl Morris.
“Coach Mills was a great architect for offense, and he has contributed more than anyone to any success I have had in football,” Rose said. “I came here able to throw and run but it was Coach Mills who made me a quarterback and leader.”
The Crimson has set numerous offensive marks under Mills’ guidance, including school records for passing yards (2,885) and total yards (4,679).
Charleston Southern Athletic Director Hank Small sees Mills’ impressive record at Harvard as a tremendous asset for this young head coach.
“He brings a great credibility as a proponent of academic success and as a master of the no-huddle offense,” Small said during Friday’s press conference. “We feel Jay has all of the qualities and characteristics needed to continue the development of our football program.”
Murphy echoed those sentiments yesterday.
“I have a good relationship with Mills,” Murphy said. “He was a hard worker and I feel you should reward people and empower them.”
Mills will have his work cut out for him next season, as the Buccaneers have an inconsistent and turnover-prone offense that threw six fewer touchdowns than interceptions last season.
Murphy faces a difficult task in finding a replacement for Mills’ talent. Murphy said he has not yet determined how he will run his coaching staff this upcoming season, but added that he was in the market for a new offensive coordinator.
“I’ll definitely hire someone in the offensive coordinator capacity,” Murphy said. “As far as play-calling, that is something we will have to work out later.”
Murphy is accustomed to calling plays, as he was the primary play-caller for a majority of his time as head coach.
Murphy doesn’t expect the Crimson offense to change significantly next season, noting that the basic offensive foundation that exists today has been in place for almost 19 years.
Players also seem to be confident that the team will make a smooth transition regardless of the impending coaching changes.
“The offense is pretty much going to be the same,” Fitzpatrick said. “A lot of it is coach Murphy’s offense. We’re excited to see how things are going to change, but at the same time a lot of us are sad to see him leave.”
—Staff writer Samita Mannapperuma can be reached at email@example.com.