Charleston Southern Football Coach Jay Mills Announces Retirement
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- After 10 seasons at Charleston Southern University, Head Football Coach Jay Mills announced at a press conference on Thursday afternoon that he will retire from the helm of the Buccaneers' program.
Mills is retiring from coaching to pursue a career in athletic administration. He leaves as the winningest coach in CSU history and led the Bucs to countless new heights and milestones in his decade as the program's head coach.
"My passion for athletics and my purpose of growing coaches and young people fuels an intentional change in my career path," Mills said Thursday afternoon. "It is my desire, and I believe I am prepared, to lead not just a sport, but an athletic department to this end."
Mills leaves behind a legacy in building Buccaneer football from its early stages of a growing program to one which garnered a Big South Championship, a national ranking, and a record-setting winning streak in the late 2000's. He also finishes his stint at CSU on a high note and leaves the program budding with potential heading into the 2013 season. The Bucs won their final four homes games and five of their final seven games in 2012 to rally from a slow start and finish with the second-best record in the Big South.
From 2005-10, CSU was one of the premiere programs in the Big South. Mills guided the program to its first-ever Big South title in 2005 in only his third season as head coach. CSU rallied from a 2-4 start to end the season on a five-game winning streak. The Bucs claimed their first Big South Football Championship following a dramatic 34-27 come-from-behind, double-overtime victory over rival Coastal Carolina.
Following the 2005 season, Mills was named Big South Coach of the Year, leading the way for an award-filled postseason for the Bucs. Record-setting quarterback Collin Drafts was named Big South Offensive Player of the Year, while linebacker Jada Ross was tabbed as Big South Defensive Player of the Year, and defensive lineman Adam DeGraffenreid earned distinction as Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year. During the Big South Conference 25th Anniversary Celebration, fans selected the Bucs' achievements in 2005 as the top sports moment in the Conference's history. The Buccaneers were also named the "Team of the Year" by collegesports.com.
CSU then showed the ability to live up to heightened expectations in 2006, winning its first nine games en route to posting the nation's second-longest winning streak at 14 games. The 2006 team was nationally-ranked for the first time in school history, and finished with a school-record nine wins.
The Bucs would go 37-30 over a six-year stretch, while backing down from no one. CSU has played Florida, Florida State, Miami, Kentucky, South Florida, Hawaii, and Illinois among others over the last decade. The challenge of playing the FBS opponents and the revenue which came with the games, led to a football fieldhouse, which was dedicated in the fall and is now the cornerstone facility for the Bucs' program.
Jay Mills on the decision to leave Charleston Southern:
"My passion for athletics and my purpose of growing coaches and young people fuels an intentional change in my career path. It is my desire, and I believe I am prepared, to lead not just a sport, but an athletic department to this end.
"Isaiah 30:21 says 'Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying this is the way, walk in it.' It is my firm belief that I have paid close attention to those markers that lead to a path He desires. I am confident the direction I now pursue is in accordance with His will.
"I will always be a Buccaneer, but it is now time to hang up my whistle. I'm going to take this opportunity to pursue a career in athletic administration. I want to take the opportunity to become involved with (all sports), not just football. Essentially, it is my goal to attain a position as a Director of Athletics. I believe my skill set correlates with the description of a job in this venue. I believe that my job has been completed at Charleston Southern, but I believe my purpose continues.
"I remember something Billy Graham once said and it has always resonated, 'A coach will have more impact in one year, than a pastor will in a lifetime,' and I have never taken that lightly, I believe this new career path will allow me to serve a broad spectrum of individuals from various backgrounds and assist their advancement by focusing on the whole person."
Mills on his years at Charleston Southern:
"This season we built a foundation for Charleston Southern to continue its success. A large number of starters return from this year's team and many young players who have a number of years of eligibility remaining. I'm confident whoever takes control of this program will continue to build on what we have done ... So many have given and so much has been accomplished, the program is in the best standing academically it has ever been in, we got the (football fieldhouse) built, the football program has won the CSU Community Service Award four years in-a-row, and, most importantly, the growing number of men who have come to know Christ through CSU football. Wins are important, but it is about winning in life and winning from an eternal perspective.
"I depart with fond memories of great athletic achievements, but more importantly, great relationships with athletes, coaches, administrative faculty and the entire CSU community."
Charleston Southern Vice President Dr. Rick Brewer on Mills:
"Coach Jay Mills has been a transformational leader for CSU football, both as a coach and spiritual mentor to hundreds of student-athletes these past 10 years. Our program is positioned for greatness in the days ahead built on the strong foundation and commitment to excellence Coach Mills established and embodied during his tenure at the helm of CSU's football program. His faithful support for the University's Mission and Vision has been emblematic of the CSU coaching staff and athletics administration."
Athletic Director Hank Small on Mills:
"Jay Mills has been a great leader for our program and has impacted the lives of countless students-athletes as well as members of this University ... He is a man in our department who has shown us all the qualities of a leader. He has represented the university so well in the community, with service groups, and churches, and has always articulated the University's vision. When we hired Jay Mills, we never dreamed of the level to which he would take this program and its message. We played the Floridas, Miamis, FSUs and featured the university in the largest papers and media outlets in the country. Those games enabled us to build this (football fieldhouse), and we are forever indebted to his legacy ... We wanted (Jay) to be successful in developing this program, but what he has accomplished is nothing more than miraculous. A Big South Championship, a national ranking, a nine-win season, and three consecutive wins over a rival have all been accomplished by his leadership ... He has built this program using talent from near and far. Men like Collin Drafts (Battery Creek) and Jada Ross (Summerville), Charles James (2010 and 2012 All-American), Adam DeGraffenried (Academic All-American), and Gerald Stevenson (Canadian Football League) were molded into leaders in their professions: professional athletes, high school and college coaches, teachers, law enforcement officers and leaders in the business world."
Former Bucs' quarterback Collin Drafts on Mills:
"I will always contribute the success I had from the leadership of Coach Mills ... As a true freshman, he threw me into the fire and I took my lumps, but I appreciate and respect the way he coached me and taught me. I am grateful I played for someone as intelligent and demanding ... He took the program to new heights, leading us to the school's first winning season, its first conference title, a national ranking, and a 14-game winning streak ... He really should be credited for the success the program has seen and the new levels it has reached ... He is a very well-respected coach and teacher, as well as a great man to play for."