NORMAL, Ill. – Minutes after Illinois State’s 17-10, season-finale overtime loss to #9 Southern Illinois Saturday, Denver Johnson announced his resignation from his head coaching duties, a position he has held with the Redbirds for the last nine seasons. For a two-month period, Johnson will be assigned to administrative duties as needed by ISU Director of Athletics Dr. Sheahon Zenger.
“Dr. Zenger and I have agreed upon a course of action that we both feel confident will generate positive momentum for the advancement of our program,” said Johnson. “It has been an honor and privilege to serve this great institution and athletics department. Illinois State will always have a special place in the hearts of the Johnson family.”
With the season-ending loss, the Redbirds finished the 2008 season with a 3-8 record overall, after finishing 4-7 in 2007. It was ISU’s first back-to-back losing seasons in over a decade (1996 and 1997).
“It has been an honor and a privilege to work with Denver Johnson,” said Zenger. “He is a great coach and an even better man. I would want Denver, as well our fans and supporters, to know that he didn’t fail. He built a solid program that we can build upon, and I would like to thank him for his nine years of service to this institution.”
During his nine-year run at Illinois State, Johnson posted a 48-54 record with the Redbirds, highlighted by the 2006 NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision Playoff run and a season-ending No. 8 national ranking. Johnson’s teams produced some of the most prolific offensive campaigns in the program's history by establishing 28 offensive school records, including the most points and the most rushing, passing and total yards in a season.
Not including this season, Johnson coached 34 All-Americans and 61 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selections, including the league's first-ever three-time defensive player of the year, Boomer Grigsby; and the offensive and defensive players of the year in 2005 with Laurént Robinson and Brent Hawkins, respectively. During his tenure, the Redbirds also boasted the Valley Football Defensive Player of the Year for five-straight seasons, from 2002-06, with Grigsby winning the honor three times, followed by Hawkins and Cameron Siskowic.
Johnson had originally joined the Illinois State staff after a three-year head coaching stint at Murray State. He owns a 69-66 career record in his 12 seasons as a head coach.
A national search to replace Johnson will begin immediately.