Jerry Moore's legendary coaching career at Appalachian State University was known to be drawing toward a conclusion considering at 73 he was the second-oldest coach in the Football Championship Subdivision.
But his departure Sunday from the perennial national power out of the Southern Conference came with surprise because the decision didn't necessarily occur on his terms.
Athletic director Charlie Cobb announced Moore will not return to the Mountaineers' sideline next season. It brought an end to a 24-year tenure as Appalachian State head coach. The winningest coach in SoCon history posted a 215-87 record and remains the only coach to lead three straight NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS) national championship seasons, from 2005-07.
The 2006 Eddie Robinson Award winner for FCS coach of the year, Moore won 10 SoCon championships and led the program to 18 postseason appearances. The Mountaineers' eighth straight playoff appearance ended Saturday with a 38-37 overtime loss to Illinois State in the second round.
During ASU's run of national titles, Moore's most famous win occurred on Sept. 1, 2007, when the Mountaineers won at fifth-ranked Michigan, 34-32, to become the first FCS program to defeat a nationally ranked FBS school.
Cobb didn't term the decision a firing, but said Moore's contract will not be renewed when it ends in June and that it was "time" to move the program forward with a new coach. ASU has announced its desire to move to an FBS conference.
"We had an agreement in place, and it's honoring that agreement," Cobb said on a conference call. "There's a difference of opinion, but the reality of it is it's just time. We'll move forward."
Beginning early last offseason, Cobb said, "We had several discussions; others were involved. At the end of the day, one person wants one thing and one person wants another, so we just had to agree to disagree.
"There's got to be a stopping point."
Appalachian State did not make Moore available for the conference call, saying he is traveling to New York for the National Football Foundation banquet this week. However, Moore was on campus Sunday morning to inform his players of the coaching change.
Assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield will serve as Appalachian State's interim head coach while the university conducts a national search for Moore's successor. Satterfield is a candidate for the position, Cobb said.
"Until this morning, I didn't officially know that this was going to be it. It's kind of a little bit shocking to all of us," said Satterfield, who is in his second stint as an ASU assistant coach. He spent 11 seasons with the Mountaineers from 1998-2008, left for assistant positions at Toledo (2009) and Florida International (2010-11), and then returned this past year.
"I certainly hope Scott's a long-term part of the football program at Appalachian. He deserves it," Cobb said.
"Certainly over the next couple weeks, he's obviously got as good a shot as anybody as we get started in this process."
Moore's coaching career has spanned 51 years, beginning on the high school level. He served as head coach at North Texas (1979-80) and Texas Tech (1981-85), and has a 242-134-2 overall record. He also spent 15 seasons on the staffs of such coaches as Hayden Fry (1965-72 at SMU), Tom Osborne (1973-78 at Nebraska) and Ken Hatfield (1988 at Arkansas).
ASU junior quarterback Jamal Jackson talked Sunday about the surprising change, calling Moore a "father figure" to ASU players. Moore was the second- oldest FCS coach to the University of Albany's Bob Ford, 75.
"I'm going to broach the conversation with Coach about some type of role here within the university athletics," Cobb said.
Before the ASU conference call, the university announced its decision in a news release.
"Following the end of last season (2011), Coach Moore and I sat down and we came to the decision, with the approval of Dr. (Kenneth E.) Peacock (Appalachian State University chancellor), that the 2012 season would be the last season of his tenure as head coach," said Cobb in the statement.
"Coach Moore didn't want to make that decision public before or during the season because, in his typical humble nature, he wanted all of the focus to be on his student-athletes, winning a 10th Southern Conference championship and returning to the postseason for the eighth straight year. In a fitting sendoff, all of those goals were accomplished. For thousands of Mountaineer fans, including myself, seeing him carried off the field by his players while clutching the Southern Conference championship trophy following the win over Furman (Nov. 10) was the highlight of the season."