PITTSBURG, Kan. — Change is always hard, and sometimes painful, but wrapping your head and heart around it after 33-plus years with one program makes it almost impossible to grasp.
Dealing with sudden change is what former Pittsburg State football coach Tim Beck is currently navigating after it was announced that he would not be back at the helm of the program on Nov. 18.
“It was extremely hard, and I am not sure I have even completely come to terms with it or accepted it yet,” Beck said about learning he would not be returning to coach his alma mater. “It is really difficult and hard to think about.
“I found out on Sunday (after the season-finale win against Missouri Southern), then I met with our coaching staff first thing Monday morning to let them know. I addressed the team that afternoon around 4 o’clock. ... I just told them that I appreciated them and everything they did. … I thanked them for all of their hard work, and I told them I was sad that I wouldn’t be their coach any longer. It was pretty emotional for me.”
After finishing the 2018 season with an 8-3 record, narrowly missing the playoffs, Pittsburg State slipped to 6-5 in 2019, suffering a five-game losing streak after starting the season with a 5-0 record, prompting a change to be made.
“Obviously, it is not the way we wanted things to turn out,” Beck said. “And I know going 6-5 this year and 8-3 last year is maybe good enough in some places, but I know that’s not good enough at Pittsburg State. … It was extremely tough to find out I wouldn’t be coaching here anymore because I have felt like I’ve put most of my life in this job.”
CLIMBING THE RANKS
After graduating from Pittsburg State (1985-88), Beck, serving as a student assistant in 1987 and then as a graduate assistant in 1988, became a full-time assistant on the Gorilla coaching staff in 1989. He proceeded to climb the coaching ranks, being named the defensive coordinator for two seasons from 1992-93.
“I am very appreciative of Coach (Dennis) Franchione (Pittsburg State head coach from 1985-89) for giving me the opportunity to coach here,” Beck said. “When Coach Franchione left, I had to make a decision, and I chose to stay here with Coach (Chuck) Broyles, who made me defensive coordinator. That was a big job, and it was a big step for me.”
Beck was then named the offensive coordinator in 1994, a position he held for 16 seasons.
“When Jerry Kill left, Coach Broyles asked me to be the offensive coordinator, and that was an even bigger step for me,” Beck continued. “I still appreciate the fact he gave me the chance to be the offensive coordinator here. We made some pretty drastic changes offensively over the years, and we were still able to have a lot of success. We were always trying to stay ahead of the game a little bit.”
The drastic changes worked, as Beck’s 2004 offensive unit established itself as one of the strongest groups in the history of NCAA football. Pittsburg State broke a 118-year-old scoring record, tallying 837 points (55.8 ppg), setting NCAA all-division records for rushing yards (5,320) and total offensive yards (8,976). In 2008, Beck was voted as the inaugural NCAA Division II Coordinator of the Year by FootballScoop.com.
“The 2004 offense was a big deal for me,” Beck said when asked about some of his favorite memories as a coordinator. “It was something we weren’t sure of going in, but it kept getting better and better as the year went on. It was pretty awesome.”
THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME
Beck’s coaching status reached its pinnacle in 2009 when he was named the 14th head coach in program history. He captained the ship at Pittsburg State for 10 years, accumulating an 82-35 career record.
“It was tough when Coach Broyles decided to step down, but when I got the opportunity to take over as head coach, I was very thankful and excited for the opportunity,” Beck said. “I was very fortunate to be here that long, and I appreciate every opportunity along the way.”
While leading the Gorillas, the Pittsburg State program won the 2011 NCAA Division II National Championship with a 35-21 victory over Wayne State University — the school’s fourth national title overall, and Beck’s second while on the coaching staff— wrapping up a 13-1 record that season, which earned Beck national coach of the year honors from Liberty Mutual, the Don Hansen Football Committee and FieldTurf. He finished with an 8-1 overall postseason record during his tenure as head coach.
“There is nothing like being on the sidelines at Pittsburg State on Saturdays,” Beck said. “It is a tremendous adrenaline rush knowing that you work year round, and it comes down to those three hours on Saturday afternoon. When it’s game time, it’s game time. It is extremely intense and exciting, and you can see it on the other coaches’ faces. There is nothing like it.”
MOVING ON FROM A PLACE CALLED HOME
Beck still has the desire to coach, though he has not given much thought as to where his next job might be. Of course, when you spend more than 33 years of your life in one place, you plant roots, making friendships and raising a family along the way, which can be difficult to pull out of the ground when it is time to move on.
“What I am going to miss most is going to work with our coaches, the families coming to the games and just being here in Pittsburg, trying to represent the university as best we can,” Beck said. “That is what we are going to miss the most. Coaching is coaching, and you can do that anywhere, but this is a special place. Never once did I feel like we ever took our jobs for granted. It was one of those things my wife and I talked about, it was kind of 24-7 football for our family. It was a topic of conversation year round, really.”
LEAVING A LEGACY
Looking at his overall body of work, career record as the head coach and accolades gained while at the helm, Beck certainly continued the rich tradition of winning football while in charge of the Gorillas. But if you ask him, one of his greatest accomplishments was taking part in turning high school boys into young men by the time they left the program.
“That is something all coaches are proud of,” Beck said. “We even talked to the coaches who came to our camps this summer about how important it is for them to keep doing what they are doing. Other than the military, it’s the next best thing for structure and demanding young men to be reliable, accountable, having character, toughness and being committed. It’s very special.”
ALWAYS A SPECIAL PLACE
With Beck’s desire to continue coaching, his profession will no doubt take him away from the area. While he takes the time to evaluate his and his family’s situation before deciding what is best for everyone involved, Beck was quick to point out that regardless of where he lands next, Pittsburg, Kansas, will always be home.
“There is no question,” Beck said. “I have been very fortunate to have a lot of former lettermen, guys I played with and former players contact me to wish me well. This place has meant everything to me. It is going to be extremely hard to do whatever else I am going to do moving forward, but there is no doubt that the whole university, and the football program especially, is special to me. It is just hard to imagine coaching somewhere other than Pittsburg State.”