November 27, 2003

Pendergast Fired After Three Years at Helm

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At various points during his team’s 1-9 season, football head coach Tim Pendergast assumed the blame for his team’s lackadaisical play. Unfortunately for Pendergast, Cornell Athletic Director J. Andrew Noel agreed, firing the coach yesterday after three years on the Hill.

“Tim Pendergast worked diligently in an effort to bring success to our program and the university,” Noel said in a statement issued by the Cornell News Service and the Athletic Communications office yesterday. “Unfortunately, we were unable to attain the progress that is needed. A coaching change at this time is in the best interest of Cornell University and its football program.”

Pendergast, who had served as head coach of Hamilton College, was hired as the Roger J. Weiss ’61 Coach of Football on Jan. 18, 2001, after Pete Mangurian left the post to pursue an assistant coaching position with the Atlanta Falcons. He inherited a team that was 5-5 during the 2000 season, and that had finished second in the Ivies with a second-place 5-2 conference mark. However, in Pendergast’s first season at the helm, the Red finished with a disappointing 2-7 record, including just 2-5 in the Ancient Eight.

Cornell looked to have turned the corner last season, as the Red finished 4-6 on the year. And heading into the year, much was expected of a team that was returning many of its players at skill positions. For one week, it looked like the Red just might fulfill that promise, slipping past Bucknell, 21-19, in the season opener. Unfortunately for Cornell, that would be the season’s lone highlight, as the team lost its final nine games of the year, including all seven of its Ivy games. The 0-7 Ivy record marked the first time the Red went winless in conference play since 1975, when the team was coached by future San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers head man George Seifert.

In fairness to Pendergast, he never had his full complement of players during the 2003 season. Second-team All-Ivy linebacker, junior Joel Sussman, was lost to a knee injury before the season even began. Senior wide receiver Chad Nice, the team’s deep threat, sustained a season-ending injury on the opening kickoff. Meanwhile, senior co-captain and quarterback Mick Razzano was limited due to an abdominal injury, while several other key components including running backs sophomore Josh Johnston and junior Marcus Blanks were also slowed.

The team’s 1-9 record and a scoring differential of 304-130, including a season-ending 59-7 debacle at Penn was apparently too much. During Pendergast’s three seasons on the East Hill, his teams were just 7-22 (5-16 Ivy), never finishing higher than fifth in the conference.

Archived article by Alex Ip