NORTH CANTON — Jim Dennison has been roaming a football sideline for more than 50 years.
On Monday, however, the Wadsworth native and Medina County Sports Hall of Fame inductee announced he will be retiring from his position as Walsh University’s head football coach after 18 seasons.
Dennison, who helped start the Cavaliers program in 1995 after a lengthy stint at the University of Akron, will also be retiring as associate athletic director at the Division II institution at the end of the current school year.
Walsh wrapped up the 2012 season Saturday by falling 26-7 to Findlay.
“Jim has created a legacy that will live on,” Walsh University President Richard Jusseaume said in a press release. “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.”
Dennison, who led the Cavaliers to 14 winning seasons and an overall mark of 119-77, was at the forefront in starting the football program at the school months after he was named director of athletics in June 1993.
The university announced it would institute football in February 1994 and Dennison served as AD and football coach until 2007.
Walsh won the Mid-States Football Association championship in 2001 and made its first and only NAIA playoff appearance after recording a 9-3 record in 2006. This past fall was Walsh’s first as a D-II program and as a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Prior to going to Walsh, the Wadsworth graduate was the athletic director at Akron, along with serving as the Zips head football coach from 1973-85. During that time, he compiled an 80-62-2 mark and is still the program’s career leader in victories.
“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, who was inducted into the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame in 1987. “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.”
Dennison, 74, was a football, basketball and baseball standout at Wadsworth, earning All-Metro League accolades in each sport, and went on to play football and baseball at the College of Wooster.
He started his coaching career in 1960, helping out in all three sports for the Grizzlies before becoming the head baseball coach and assistant football coach at Elyria.
Dennison’s first head football gig came in 1964, when he took over the Copley program and led the Indians to a 9-0 season. He then joined Gordon Larson’s coaching staff at Akron for eight years before taking over the program in 1973.
Dennison, who currently resides in Norton, became a charter member of Akron’s “Ring of Honor” in 2003. His son, Greg, is the head football coach at Wadsworth.
While his decision to retire came as a shock to many, the legacy Dennison built at Walsh won’t soon be forgotten.
“I was surprised when Coach Dennison came into my office to let me know of his intentions to resign as coach of the Cavaliers,” director of athletics Dale Howard said. “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.
“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.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.