2023 CAA Football

Villanova's Andy Talley Caps Transcendent Career With Hall Of Fame Nod

Villanova's Andy Talley Caps Transcendent Career With Hall Of Fame Nod

A package Andy Talley was not anticipating arrived on March 11 when the longtime Villanova head coach was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Apr 19, 2020 by Kyle Kensing
Villanova's Andy Talley Caps Transcendent Career With Hall Of Fame Nod

A package Andy Talley was not anticipating arrived on March 11. 

The return address on the outside read it came from the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame – not out of the norm for Talley, the longtime Philadelphia chapter president. Inside, however, were contents of which only the most elite in football have ever received. 

“I open it up,” Talley describes, “and there’s this beautiful football with my name on it, and it says, “2020 National Football Foundation Hall of Fame Inductee Andy Talley, Dec. 8, 2020” – when the induction ceremony is in New York City. And there’s a very nice letter from Steve Hatchell, who’s the [CEO of the NFF], and there’s a very nice quote on an insert.”

The accompanying insert included statistics detailing just how exclusive the company is in the College Football Hall of Fame. Among the inductees in the game’s 150-year history are just 219 coaches. 

Andy Talley joins that club later this year. 

“I was like, ‘Huh? What?!’” Talley laughed. 

Believe it. Talley heads to the Hall in 2020, joining a class that includes 1994 Heisman Trophy finalist Steve McNair, “Pony Express” standout Eric Dickerson, and the driving force of LSU’s 2007 national championship-winning team, Glenn Dorsey. 

Talley joins Furman legend-turned-NC State head man Dick Sheridan as the two coaches in this year’s class. 

Because the Hall only inducts two coaches per class, Talley’s selection is all the more noteworthy. This year was just his second on the ballot, as nominees become eligible three years after retirement.

“There are some guys on there who’ve waited 10, 15, 20 years to get into the Hall of Fame,” he said. “I figured, hey, I’ll be long gone by the time they take me.”

Such is the modest tone Talley has often taken.   

Sitting at the postgame press conference podium at Finley Stadium following his Villanova Wildcats’ 2009 National Championship win over Montana, Talley joked that his contract with the university consisted of administrators asking if he would like to return for another season, and Talley saying yes. 

Eventually, Talley had to stop saying yes. The 2016 season was his last at the helm at Villanova, and he left with a remarkable 229-137-1 record over 32 campaigns, and 257-155-2 for his nearly four decades in the profession. 

Those 257 wins rank Talley No. 22 all-time in official career wins, ahead of such noteworthy names as Tom Osborne, Lou Holtz and Nick Saban. 

You wouldn’t know Talley racked up more wins than such gridiron luminaries from talking to him. He’s not self-aggrandizing, and that attitude explains his success. 

“The way I ran everything…if you’re the defensive coordinator, you’re in charge,” he said of his assistants. “I’m not going to step on your toes, I’m going to let you coach. And coaches like that. They can really be themselves, and I think it’s important.”

Current Villanova coach Mark Ferrante echoes that sentiment. 

Ferrante’s connection with Talley dates back to the St. Lawrence days, when Ferrante quarterbacked the Saints through 1982. 

Ferrante’s first coaching job came one year later at St. Lawrence, and he rejoined Talley at Villanova in 1987. He’s been there ever since, serving first as running backs coach; then as offensive line coach before joining those duties with the associate head coach’s role. 

“The thing coach Talley did, he motivated us, taught us, guided us, but also gave us a lot of room,” Ferrante said. “He wasn’t a micromanager. He allowed you to go out there and interact with the players.

“He was very instrumental in guiding us, but giving us a lot of flexibility to do our job,” Ferrante added. 

When Ferrante joined the Wildcats staff in 1987, it coincided with Villanova’s first year as a Div. I-AA independent. 

The program previously played in Div. III during Talley’s first two years, the first two after returning from a four-year hiatus. And the coach brought what Ferrante described as “the D-III model, which is a lot more hands-on.” 

It may have been the D-III model, but it yielded D-I success immediately. Villanova reached the Playoffs in 1989, and became a perennial player at its level. 

Football evolved in Talley’s 30-plus years at Villanova, and so did his approach. The end results include 12 appearances in the Playoffs, three Walter Payton Award winners (Brian Finneran in 1997, Brian Westbrook in 2001 and John Robertson in 2014), and the 2009 national championship. 

Talley said the three Walter Payton Award winners and an image of the team hoisting the championship trophy on the Finley Stadium field in December 2009 are all prominently featured at Villanova’s new Athletic Center. 

The venue bears Talley’s name and was opened during his final season at the helm. It’s a symbol of Villanova football’s continued growth, which continues under Ferrante.

A coach’s legacy can oftentimes be fairly measured with the tree he cultivates, and Talley’s is impressive. Villanova reached its first postseason under Ferrante this past season, won nine games, and peaked in the Top 5 of the polls. 

Another former Talley assistant, Tony Trisciani, has a team to watch in the 2020 Colonial Athletic Association race. 

Dave Clawson finished on the plus side of .500 for a fourth consecutive season at Wake Forest, making this the Demon Deacons’ most consistent stretch since the post-World War II era under D.C. Walker. 

Dan McNeill announced his retirement from SUNY Cortland following this past season, capping a career in which he won 155 games. McNeill spent 13 seasons on Talley’s staff at Villanova. 

Talley called the success of his former colleagues, “very rewarding.” Their continued contributions to the game are one legacy of which Talley is especially proud, but the accomplishment he said is “No. 1” from his career is the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation. 

The Foundation, working with Be The Match, has grown from a single drive to find potential bone marrow donors at Villanova in 1992 to a network of coaches and programs across college football. 

“That was the beginning of getting my feet on the ground and encourage more teams to get involved with me, using football as the fulcrum,” Talley said. 

The concept of using football programs to grow the registry of prospective bone marrow donors works in two ways, he explained: The size of football rosters translates to dozens of registry samples per campus on its own, while the program’s visibility encourages the general student body to get involved. 

Andy Talley’s contributions transcend the game – but his feats within the sport rank him among the very best. He may not have been expecting the Hall of Fame’s package to arrive, but it was a delivery well-deserved.