Rob Ambrose will no longer be associated with the Towson football program.
The Tigers announced Monday morning that it would not bring back Ambrose after 14 years as head coach, nine as an assistant coach and three years as quarterback. Special teams coordinator Lyndon Johnson will serve as the interim coach, and a national search for the program’s fifth coach has begun.
Reached via text, Ambrose declined to comment.
Towson athletic director Steve Eigenbrot said he informed Ambrose of the decision Monday morning. He also said he elected not to offer another contract extension to Ambrose, who had two more months left on his current deal.
While acknowledging a number of factors that contributed to the decision, Eigenbrot noted that the school has not qualified for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs since 2018.
“We want to play football on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and we want to continue that with more frequency,” he said. “When I got hired, I think the comment that was made that was pretty relevant to TU athletics was that we’ve seen success in many areas across the board. The idea of sustained success and what looks like is something that we’re after, and I think the football program in recent years hasn’t been able to hit that mark.”
The announcement was made two days after the team ended the regular season on a four-game winning streak to improve to 6-5. It marked the program’s first four-game streak since 2018 and first above-.500 campaign since 2019.
In 13 seasons (The team did not compete in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.), Ambrose compiled a 76-76 record that included Colonial Athletic Association championships in 2011 and 2012, three NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff berths (2011, 2013 and 2018 ) and an appearance in the FCS title game in 2013. That Tigers squad lost, 35-7, to perennial FCS juggernaut North Dakota State.
Eigenbrot credited Ambrose and his players for refusing to give up after a five-game losing streak from Sept. 17 to Oct. 22.
“They lost five games in a row, which I think for all intents and purposes eliminated them from the playoffs, and they turned around and won four games,” he said. “I don’t care who the opponents are, but the fact that they did that says a lot about the character of the team and Coach Ambrose’s willingness to put in the work. That being said, when I got here in March, Rob had 10 months left on his contract, and we’ve been in a situation here — kind of well before my tenure — where as he was coaching that contract down, I think things were kind of pointed in this direction, and ultimately, it felt like … a confluence of circumstances where it was time.”
Ambrose ranks third in coaching wins behind Phil Albert (117-91-3 from 1972 to 1991) and Gordy Combs (92-90 from 1992 to 2008). During Ambrose’s tenure, a number of players made their way to the NFL, including running back Terrance West (Cleveland Browns’ third-round pick in 2013) and cornerback Tye Smith (Seattle Seahawks’ fifth-round pick in 2015).
Redshirt freshman Patrick Coyle, a long snapper, expressed his admiration for Ambrose via Twitter, writing, “Words can’t say how greatful I am to have played for coach Ambrose… A true leader of men who loves Towson more than anyone. Thanks for everything coach!”
Eigenbrot said his phone has been “ablaze” with interest from potential successors. He said he would not restrict the parameters of the search to only those with head coaching experience or those who are well-versed in the CAA.
“I don’t think there’s a particular type,” he said. “With me, I feel like the fit piece certainly makes a lot of sense. … If you’re not a DMV person but you’ve got some experience in the CAA or know what FCS football looks like, I think there’s two different ways to go about that. At the end of the day, I’d really like to find somebody that fits Towson and fits with me and our vision of what this athletic department wants to be moving forward.”
Towson is one of eight FCS schools that has announced a coaching change in the offseason.