Head football coach Mike Aldrich and offensive coordinator Steve Olinger are no longer with the college’s football team, per a press release from athletic director Bill Gross and the athletic department. The official notice came after the team met with President Rob Oliver at 3 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.
Before it was official, however, many people became aware of the coaching changes via Twitter. Matt Zimmer of the Argus Leader tweeted, “Big news: Mike Aldrich has been fired as Augustana football coach.” at 10:16 a.m. The tweet caught social-media wildfire, being retweeted 21 times and sending the press and many others into a buzz.
The Augustana Mirror requested a confirmation of the termination of Aldrich from Gross at 10:27 a.m., but received no response.
After some of the initial smoke cleared, it became apparent that Olinger was no longer on staff either.
All of the rumors were validated when Augustana released a statement at 3:15 p.m. available on GoAugie.com.
“We appreciate the many contributions of Mike [Aldrich] and Steve [Olinger] over the years and we wish them all the best in their future endeavors,” Gross said in the statement. “We have formed an eight-member search committee which will be chaired by associate athletic director Jeff Holm.”
Many students showed their frustrations towards the situation on the web. Comments ranged from: “Can’t believe this news… Much love to our fearless leader….. #CoachAforever” to “Wish we could have a say.”
Speculation began as to the motives behind the dismissals. Aldrich’s team put together a 5-6 season this year (2-3 at home). Over his three-year tenure, the Vikings were 22-13. He was the only head football coach to have winning seasons in his first two years.
Many questioned the situation of Aldrich having little time to recruit and play with teams he pieced together. This year’s true sophomores are the first class Aldrich recruited.
Some of the second-year students that have made notable contributions include true sophomore Dajon Newell (104.8 yard avg/game), redshirt freshmen CJ Ham (2 touchdowns, 369 yards) and Brandon Mohr (33 tackles, 1 sack) among others.
The freshman class has also shown signs of a bright future with Justin Brown (13 tackles), Adam Juhl (38 tackles, 11 vs. USF), Sam Lee (6 games), Jason Greenway (85 yards, 1 TD) and Justin Greenway (64 yards).
Other top performances have come from players who have spent just two years with Aldrich. Grant Gebhardt (119.5 yard avg/game) and Nate Kirby (62 tackles in 2012) are some of the standouts in that category.
Aldrich, the 21st head football coach at Augustana, led his team to a school-record of 11 wins in his first season, a record that earned the school its first playoff appearance in 21 years. Aldrich also served as the team’s defensive coordinator.
In addition to Augustana, Aldrich has had coaching stints with the Sioux Falls Storm, California Lutheran University, College of the Sequoias, and his alma mater, St. Olaf College.
“The committee will begin their work immediately reviewing applications and by researching potential candidates,” Gross said.
“We are looking for an experienced leader with head college coaching experience. The new head coach needs to be a person of high integrity with outstanding coaching, recruiting and communication skills.
“The individual also needs to embrace the values of the college and be an excellent public relations advocate for Augustana.”