TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State’s football ship has been righted under Trent Miles’ watch. But the man who captained the ship has sailed.
Miles has left the ISU program to take the head coaching position at Georgia State University.
Miles, who has been ISU’s football coach since the 2008 season, confirmed the news Friday night after meeting with the football team at Memorial Stadium.
Georgia State, based in Atlanta, will have a news conference on Monday to announce Miles as the Panthers’ coach.
Miles, a Terre Haute native who played at ISU, said the decision to depart his hometown and his alma mater wasn’t taken lightly.
“It’s very difficult when your kids are in school and they have friends. Your mother isn’t a spring chicken anymore and she’s alone because of my father passing away. I have all my family here and my friends,” Miles said after the meeting.
“It’s difficult, but at the same time, it’s a chance to be a Division I football coach and advance my career,” he added. Miles was 20-36 in five seasons as ISU’s coach.
The Terre Haute native inherited a program widely considered to be the worst in Division I football.
ISU was winless in 2008 and had a one-win season in 2009 before it turned the corner, and has had three consecutive winning seasons since then. The three straight winning seasons are the first for the Sycamores since 1967-69.
“I take a great deal of pride in what happened here. This is my hometown and alma mater. I’m extremely proud. It doesn’t matter who’s coaching here now,” Miles said. “This program is in a situation where whoever takes over is taking over a top 20 football team with weapons and youth. I feel really good about what’s going on here.”
Miles told ISU Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman at 8:30 a.m. Friday that he would resign to take the Georgia State job. Prettyman and Miles spent four hours together on Friday planning the transition to Miles’ successor.
“We talked through transition issues and I picked his brain on some things I need to be aware of in the transition,” Prettyman said. “I’m awfully happy for Trent. It’s a great opportunity for him to have a FBS job. He gets a tremendous increase in salary.”
Miles declined to discuss contract terms he agreed to at Georgia State.
ISU’s players filed into Memorial Stadium as dusk fell and Miles delivered the news to them in a 15-minute meeting. Emotions were mixed as the players filed out of the locker room.
“Some took it hard and some understand, but at the end of the day, it’s best for him,” ISU cornerback Johnny Towalid said. “Being recruited by Coach Miles, he tells you things you believe in, and it’s tough to hear him leave. But that’s just part of this business.”
Perhaps no player embodies the Miles era at ISU more so than linebacker Aaron Archie, who was part of his first recruiting class and who was with Miles for all five of his seasons.
“I have so much respect for coach Miles. I’ve been here since day one and he’s done nothing but good by me,” Archie said. “It’s sad to see him go, but then again, it’s better for him and his family.”
Georgia State was a Football Championship Division program in the Colonial Athletic Association, but the Panthers are moving up to FBS football and the Sun Belt Conference in 2013.
Miles said he interviewed with Georgia State after the conclusion of the season. The deal was finalized on Thursday and Miles alerted the ISU team on Friday.
“We got together after the season,” Miles said. “They were very professional and first-class. They treated everyone with respect and treated Indiana State with respect.”
Georgia State was 1-10 last season, its only win a 41-7 victory over winless Rhode Island. The program was started in 2009 by former Alabama and Kentucky coach Bill Curry.
The situation Miles inherits at the Atlanta school has similarities to the situation ISU was in when he arrived in Terre Haute. It will be a building job.
“My philosophy won’t change, it’ll just be a different place. Very few coaches have opportunities like this, especially African-American coaches. [Georgia State athletic director] Cheryl Levick is a great person and I love the way she approaches everything,” said Miles, who looks forward to being in fertile recruiting ground in the southeast.
Earlier in the week, it was reported by an internet site that Miles would take Western Michigan’s open job, but that turned out to be inaccurate. It was Georgia State that had its eye on Miles.
Georgia State hired another Indiana-based coach — former IUPUI men’s basketball coach Ron Hunter — in March.
Miles thanked ISU for the opportunity to advance his career.
“I want to thank Indiana State and Ron Prettyman for giving me that first [head] coaching job. I’ve grown and learned as I went. If it wasn’t for them and the players giving me that chance, I wouldn’t have the chance,” Miles said.