Walsh University's Jim Dennison to Retire

Walsh University's Jim Dennison to Retire

Release courtesy of Jim Clark, Director of Sports Information, Walsh University

NORTH CANTON, Ohio - After walking the sidelines for 18 years at Walsh University Jim Dennison has announced that he will retire from coaching, and as Associate Athletic Director.  Dennison has spent 31 years on the sidelines and 53 as a coach and administrator. 

The Wadsworth native is the only head coach in the history of the football program that began in 1995. He has guided the Cavs to 14 winning seasons, including a 7-3 record in the first year, and 119 wins against only 77 losses.  Walsh finished with a winning record in its first 12 years.  Dennison’s teams won at least eight games in a single season seven times and won nine games in 2006, and made their only NAIA playoff appearance after recording a 9-3 record.  Walsh won its only Mid-States Football Association championship in 2001.  This past season the Cavs finished 3-8 in their first year in the NCAA ll and in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. 

Overall, Dennison leaves the game with an overall record of 208-139-2.  He spent 13 years at the University of Akron as head coach (1973-85), where he is still the all-time winningest coach (80-62-2).

“My career has been filled with many positive experiences at the University of Akron and Walsh University, both as a coach and an administrator,” said Dennison.”  “I have been blessed to have been associated with great players and coaches. To start a football program from scratch is really a unique experience and to do it successfully is amazing. I owe all of my successes in my career to the people who have played, coached and worked for me. This has been a great ride and I thank all who took it with me.”

“Jim has created a legacy that will live on” stated Walsh University President Richard Jusseaume.  “He built our program on a foundation of integrity, commitment, and life preparation for student athletes.  He has been an important part of Walsh history, and is respected for his dedication to football, his players, and his staff.  While his retirement is a surprise, it is a passage he has earned.”

“I was surprised when Coach Dennison came into my office to let me know of his intentions to resign as Coach of the Cavaliers,” noted Director of Athletics Dale Howard.  “My surprise quickly turned to thoughts of gratitude for the many years of service he devoted to Walsh University, our student-athletes and the Football program.  In the early 90’s, when the university was conducting the study to determine if Walsh University should implement football as an intercollegiate sport, time and time again it was shared that the single most important ingredient in starting a football program at a small, private, values based school is the naming of the head coach.  As we look back on the many successes of the program, both on and off the field, it is very evident that we got it right when Jim Dennison agreed to come back to the sidelines from his administrative duties.  The passion and countless hours that he devoted over the past 18 years have laid the groundwork for our successful transition into the GLIAC and NCAA.  He will be missed, but his legacy will live on through the successful continuation of the program.”

Dennison was named Director of Athletics at Walsh in June of 1993. The university announced on February 11, 1994, that it would institute football as a varsity sport in the fall of 1995 and named Dennison as head coach. Dennison stepped down from his role as athletic director in 2007 to devote all of his time to football. 

Dennison retired from his post as Director of Athletics at the University of Akron in June of 1993. He served 28 years at Akron, including 13 years as the head football coach and seven as director of athletics.

Dennison graduated from Wadsworth High School where he earned All-Metro League honors in football, basketball and baseball. He continued his athletic prowess at the College of Wooster in football and baseball and was voted the school's Most Valuable Senior Athlete in 1960. That same year, Dennison graduated with honors with a B.A. degree.

Dennison's coaching career spans three sports and began in 1960 at his alma mater, Wadsworth High School. The following year he moved to Elyria High School as head baseball coach and an assistant in football. During his three-year stay at Elyria, his baseball teams compiled an excellent 54-16 record. Copley High School then found use for his talents by naming Jim its head football coach in 1964.  He promptly guided the Indians to an undefeated 9-0 season.

His rapid climb through the coaching ranks was accelerated the following year when Akron Head Coach Gordon Larson picked him for the UA staff. Dennison served as an assistant coach and then associate head coach for eight years before being named the Zips' head coach on January 1, 1973.

As head coach of the Zips, Dennison established himself as the winningest coach in Akron football history, with a 13 year record of 80 wins, 62 losses and two ties. He was the first Zip gridiron coach to win ten games in a season, and the first to play for a national championship. He also became the first and only Zip Football Coach to be named Ohio Coach of the Year and Kodak National College Coach of the Year in 1976. In 1982, Dennison added the Ohio Valley Coach of the Year Award to his list of accomplishments.

During his tenure as the Zips Head Coach, he produced three of the six best records in Akron football history, 10-3 in 1976, 8-3 in 1983 and 8-4 in 1985. The ‘85 team, his last, finished ranked 10th nationally and earned an NCAA I-AA playoff berth. Dennison has recruited or coached countless All-Americans, and numerous all-conference players. He is also proud of his 82% graduation rate at Akron.

In 2002 and 2005, he was named NAIA Northeast Region Sports-Turf NACDA Athletic Director of the Year and was named NAIA Region IX Athletic Director of the Year in 2004 and 2005. In 2003 he became a charter member of the University of Akron Ring of Honor and in 2007 he received the University of Akron Alumni Honor Award.

A passionate believer in positive mental attitude (PMA), Dennison is called upon to deliver his message about motivation and goal setting. Jim and his wife Sue are parents of a daughter, Mrs. Denise Morrow, and three sons, Jim, Greg and Matt and have ten grandchildren. The Dennison’s reside in Norton. 

Walsh will begin a search for a new head coach immediately.

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