Head Football Coach Bob Benson resigned Tuesday according to a university statement. Benson led the Georgetown football program to prominence early in his 13-year tenure, but recently struggled in the more competitive Patriot League, ending the 2005 campaign with a 4-7 (2-4 Patriot League) record.

Athletic Director Bernard Muir announced the news Tuesday in a press release, saying only, “We are grateful for Bob’s service and guidance during his time here. He guided the program when we first started at the I-AA level and to our current spot in the Patriot League. We wish him well in his future pursuits.”

The Athletic Department declined to comment beyond its original statement, and Benson was unavailable for an interview.

To some, the news of Benson’s departure was shocking. To others, it was inevitable. But to everyone, it was a sign that, for better or for worse, the Georgetown football program is about to undergo significant changes.

As Georgetown prepares to embark on what the press release termed a “national search for a new head coach,” it is also unclear how Benson will be remembered on the Hilltop. Despite recent difficulties, it could be hard to ignore what Benson did for the Georgetown program.

Benson joined the Hoyas prior to the 1993 season, Georgetown’s first as a Division I program, becoming at age 28 the youngest head coach in the entire division. The university had just come off a 4-6 season in Division III.

Benson’s Hoyas improved in each of his first six seasons. After going 4-5 in his inaugural campaign, the Hoyas topped the .500 mark in 1994, finishing 5-4 and third in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

From there, improved recruiting and firm commitment from Benson spurred the Hoyas to 6-3, 7-3, 8-3, 9-2, and 9-2 performances in each of the next five seasons. They either won outright, or in a tie, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in 1997, 1998, and 1999. Georgetown football was on the map.

Following the 1999 season, the Hoyas were at the top of their game, and with the new millennium in sight, many saw a bright future for the new Division I program.

It was then decided that Georgetown would spend one season as an independent before making the jump to the more competitive Patriot League for the 2001 season, a move that Benson supported whole-heartedly.

“We will be playing academically peer institutions and playing at a level of football that will challenge us week in and week out,” Benson said to THE HOYA at the time. “The Patriot League is the perfect niche for the football program. It is the perfect setting and place for this program to be in. It is where we should be ¬- playing Patriot League schools, playing Ivy League schools. It is a great move to give the student body more spirit on a weekend. Patriot League and Ivy competition will do that.”

Since the 2001 move the Hoyas have struggled, albeit with a significantly more challenging schedule. They have yet to finish over .500 in Patriot League play, and this season’s two league victories were tied for the most since making the jump.

Still, as he made the decision to resign, Benson was coming off of a 4-7 (2-4) campaign that was an improvement upon 2004’s 4-8 (1-6). The campus’ new Multi-Sport Facility is coming along nicely, if slowly, and the team’s schedule is full of Georgetown’s academic peers. In a December interview with THE HOYA after the 2005 season, Benson seemed upbeat about what the two Patriot League victories meant for the program’s progression.

“We got to .500 [after a Homecoming win against Fordham]. It showed we are progressing as a program,” he said.

As recently as two years ago, Benson seemed committed to further improving the Georgetown football program over the long term.

“It has taken the Hoyas two years to win two [Patriot League] games,” Benson said after being named THE HOYA’s 2003 Coach of the Year. “It took Fordham 13 years to win their first [Patriot League] championship. It will not take us 13 years.”

The football program has recently faced difficulties not only with its mediocre season records, but also with its funding, which has lagged behind that of its Patriot League peers.

As of 2003-04, the latest year for which financial records are publicly available, Georgetown spent over $1.2 million on the football team while receiving a mere $385,000 in revenue. Patriot League foes like Holy Cross, Colgate and Lehigh, meanwhile, spent in the $2.5 to $3.5 million range and profited or almost broke even.

“When I first got hired here, it wasn’t an issue of raising money, we didn’t need money,” Benson said in 2001. “I just needed to see if we could get anybody, any kids or anyone on this campus to care about football. . There’s nothing that I do now that doesn’t involve raising money.”

What is next for Georgetown is hard to forecast. The overtures of “national search,” however, could suggest that the next head football coach at Georgetown will most likely come from outside of the program. Also likely is that the head coaching carrousel will begin to turn before spring practice begins, bringing some stability back to a program that has had just two coaches in the last 36 seasons.

Benson took the Hoyas from Division III mediocrity, to stunning success in low level I-AA, to a higher level of I-AA. Now, the Hoyas must become competitive in the Patriot League.

Fingers are crossed on the Hilltop that the next man to assume control of the football program is the one that can lead the team to the top.

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