Amstutz exits gracefully, but not willinglyWritten by Norm Wamer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Amstutz is in his final season as head football coach of the UT Rockets. Make no mistake, it wasn’t his idea. Everyone said all the right words during a Nov. 3 press conference at Savage Arena, but Amstutz walked out the door before Athletic Director Mike O’Brien showed him where it was.
“Toledo Tom” was signed to a contract through 2009, but according to O’Brien, no contract extension was discussed. O’Brien was noncommittal on whether Amstutz would have been allowed to coach in 2009 even if he had not agreed to be reassigned to the alumni department. That likely means the answer is no.
At the time of the press conference, coach Amstutz had won just 12 times in the past 32 games. The decision to find a new Rocket football coach already has been made, and no newspaper column will change that. This columnist prefers everybody remember a plethora of sensational and stunning victories. The first win of Amstutz’s career started a terrific run with a 38-7 pasting of Minnesota at the Glass Bowl in 2001. Later that season was a 41-36 MAC Championship win against Marshall and a 23-16 Motor City Bowl victory against Cincinnati.
2002 was highlighted by a MAC West Division title and a 42-24 win against archrival Bowling Green, led by Urban Meyer. The Rockets dropped the MAC title game, 49-45 at Marshall in possibly the greatest MAC game of all time.
No one will forget 2003 and “The Catch.” Toledo hosted ninth-ranked Pittsburgh at the Glass Bowl and shocked the Panthers 35-31 under the lights when Bruce Gradkowski connected with Lance Moore on a touchdown pass with 43 seconds left. The season also included a 24-17 win against Marshall.
The 2004 season included outlasting Bowling Green 49-41 at home and another MAC championship, beating Ben Roethlisberger and the Miami Red Hawks 35-27.
Toledo stunned Bowling Green in 2005 by beating the Falcons 44-41 in double overtime at Doyt Perry Stadium and capped the campaign with a 45-13 blowout win against Texas-El Paso in the GMAC Bowl.
2006 brought another win a BCS school as the Rockets topped Kansas 37-31 in two overtimes and another over Bowling Green, 31-21 to finish the season.
In 2007, Iowa State of the Big 12 became another BSC victim at the Glass Bowl in a 36-35 thriller. Toledo also ran up a 70-21 rout of Northern Illinois. Of course, this season saw an unforgettable win at the “Big House” in Ann Arbor against Michigan 13-10.
Every year of the Tom Amstutz era brought something special to UT. Other MAC teams should be so lucky to see that kind of output during an incredible eight-year stretch. Thank you for always having a funny quip. Thank you for being accessible. Thank you for making my heart beat out of my chest every year. Because of you, every football fan knows where Toledo is. Your replacement has his work cut out for him.
Norm Wamer is program director of Sports Radio 1470 “The Ticket” WLQR-AM and co-hosts “The Front Row” weekday afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m.