Gary Darnell, Associate Executive Director

Gary DarnellGary Darnell, who spent 37 years as a college football coach for 11 different universities, was named the AFCA’s Associate Executive Director. Darnell will begin his duties on June 18.

“I view the American Football Coaches Association as the fulcrum of football for the values that are necessary for the administration of the game and the support of the coaches,” Darnell said. “My basic nature is being a very excited person, and that’s how I felt when I was asked to be a part of this organization. I am very honored and humbled to take on this new role with the AFCA.”

“I am extremely pleased to add Gary Darnell to our outstanding AFCA staff,” said Grant Teaff, AFCA Executive Director. “As a football coach and executive director of the AFCA, I have always surrounded myself with hard-working individuals who have a passion for the great game of football, the coaching profession and the impact coaches have on their players and communities. Gary has many years of leadership experience in football. Whether as a coordinator, assistant head coach or head coach, Gary has always gotten the job done.  In recent years, he has been successfully involved in business. Gary will come alongside me, working directly with football issues that affect the game, those who coach it and those who play it. Gary brings vast experience in football to the table, but more importantly to me, he will bring that same passion to the responsibilities that he will be assigned.”

Darnell began his coaching career at Oklahoma State University in 1970, where he played football for three seasons (1967-69) and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. For three years, Darnell was linebackers coach, defensive coordinator and head freshmen coach for the Cowboys. In 1973, he moved on to Southern Methodist University as head freshmen coach and linebackers coach. Darnell held that position for three years until he was named linebackers coach at the University of North Carolina in 1976. 

Darnell became the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Kansas State University in 1978, helping turn around the Wildcats program, which went 0-11 in 1977, to a berth in the Independence Bowl in 1982, the program’s first bowl game appearance. Because of the successful turnaround at Kansas State, Darnell was named head coach at Tennessee Tech University in 1983. He led the program for three years before taking the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator position at Wake Forest University in 1986. After two years at Wake Forest, Darnell was named defensive coordinator at the University of Florida in 1988. In each of his two seasons in Gainesville, Darnell’s defenses ranked No. 3 in the country and No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference in total defense. With seven games remaining in the 1989 season, Darnell was named interim head coach for the Gators, replacing Galen Hall. He guided the Gators to a 3-4 record with an appearance in the Freedom Bowl.

In 1990, Darnell joined Lou Holtz’s staff at the University of Notre Dame as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, helping guide the Fighting Irish to two New Year’s Day Bowl games. After two seasons with Notre Dame, Darnell was assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator at the University of Texas from 1992-96. After helping the Longhorns earn the 1996 Big 12 title, Darnell was named head coach at Western Michigan University, a post he held from 1997-2004. Darnell led the largest turnaround by an NCAA team in 1997, guiding the Broncos from a 2-9 mark in 1996, to an 8-3 record in his first season. Western Michigan won two Mid-American Conference West Division titles under Darnell’s watch, with his best season coming in 2000 when the team finished 9-3 overall and 7-1 in conference play. He won 46 games at Western Michigan, growing his career wins mark to 52, including his stops at Tennessee Tech and his interim head coaching post at Florida.

Darnell spent 2005 as a venture capitalist before joining the gridiron once again as defensive coordinator at Texas A&M University from 2006-07. For the past five years, Darnell has been a consultant for business development. He was previously a member of the AFCA Board of Trustees in 2004.

Darnell resides in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Sandra. The couple has one daughter, Kristen, who also lives in Austin with her husband Adam and their daughter, Bryn.

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