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End of an Era: Coach Ford Retires After 44 Seasons

STONY BROOK, N.Y. (November 23, 2013) -- The smiles and greetings of University at Albany friends, family, former players, and supporters surrounded football coach Bob Ford after the final horn sounded at Stony Brook on Saturday. The outcome was not what the team or fans had hoped for as Ford completed his final stroll of the sideline in one of his trademark hats. But the outpouring of support from former players, ranging from his very first season at the helm to recent graduates was an undeniable reminder of the legacy Coach Ford leaves as he heads into retirement, the only football coach the University has ever known.

Ford, who started his coaching career at the age of 26 as the youngest head coach in the country when he took the reins at St. Lawrence University in 1965, ended his tenure Saturday at the age of 76 -- the oldest in the country -- with 265 career wins, ranking first among active NCAA Division I coaches and fourth on the all-time FCS chart.

Bob Ford Field at UAlbany
The field at UAlbany's new football stadium is named in honor of Bob Ford, the only football coach the Great Danes have known.

“I had an opportunity to deal with a lot of young people at a formidable time in their lives and I had an opportunity to handle a lot of great coaches and I’m proud of what they achieved," said Ford on Saturday.

Ford built the UAlbany program from the ground up, taking the Great Danes from a club team to an NCAA Division I FCS contender. He laid the program's groundwork quickly at the start of his tenure, leading the Great Danes to a 30-21 victory over the Rochester Institute of Technology in the program’s first clash on October 10, 1970 at University Field. The coach on the other sideline, having lost the day's battle with Ford and the Great Danes, went on to have a fairly prestigious career as well: N.Y. Giants coach and two-time Super Bowl champion Tom Coughlin.

When UAlbany officially opened its new football stadium in September, it was a shining symbol of the success Ford brought to UAlbany. The state-of-the-art 8,500-seat facility includes a distinct press level, stair towers, main concourse, concessions and other spectator amenities. The stadium field is also named in honor of Ford.

But the coach's greatest legacy is not in the new gleaming structure or in the multitude of victories he collected during his tenure.

More importantly, Ford has served as a positive role model for generations of football players at UAlbany. "The first goal I have is I want to turn out great young men, men who are going to have an impact on their society, impact on the community, men of integrity, men of great character," said Ford in 2012, at an event held in his honor. "And we’ve turned out a ton of them. I’ll miss the kids and having my batteries recharged on a daily basis. I will miss seeing kids that overcome phenomenal things."

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