Bill Cronin has certainly enjoyed the 218 victories, loathed the 65 losses and reveled in the pair of national championships during his 25 seasons as head football coach at Georgetown College.
But as the 65-year-old Cronin announced his retirement from the Tigers program on Monday, he sounded a lot like the man who accepted the task of rebuilding the NAIA powerhouse more than two decades ago.
“It’s always been the people,” Cronin said in a school news release Monday. “It’s been a great place to settle down and watch our boys grow up. A lot of the credit goes to Ellen and our three sons for sacrificing so much that we can do the things we’ve done here.”
Upon accepting the Georgetown head coaching job in December 1996, Cronin said, “It’s all about recruiting and getting the right kind of kids. And attitude, bringing the attitude up to believing they’re better than what they are. That takes time.”
A fixture in Central Kentucky coaching circles for decades, Cronin served as offensive coordinator under Kevin Donley when Georgetown won its first national title in 1991 in what was then NAIA Division II. Cronin then became a successful high school head coach at Madison Central before returning to Georgetown as the top man.
Georgetown won back-to-back national championships in a now one-division NAIA under Cronin in 2000 and 2001, and the Tigers were national runners-up in 1999 and 2002. Both national title teams finished 14-0.
Cronin’s 25 teams won 14 Mid-South Conference titles and earned 16 national tournament bids. The head coach never had a losing season at Georgetown.
This season’s Tigers finished 8-2 overall and 5-2 in the Mid-South.
Along with all that success have come eight MSC Coach of the Year, two NAIA Coach of the Year and two AFCA Region Coach of the Year honors as well as a 2019 induction into the NAIA Hall of Fame. He became the first NAIA coach to serve on the board of trustees for the American Football Coaches Association and was the first NAIA coach to be president of the AFCA.
In 2000, Cronin was runner-up for the Herald-Leader’s annual Kentucky Sports Figure of the Year award.
“The players make these kinds of things happen, whether it be the hall of fame or winning championships,” Cronin said in Monday’s statement. “You also have to give a lot of credit to the coaches and players of the past who worked hard to build that tradition. You never accomplish the things you do alone.”
In 2008, Cronin told the Herald-Leader’s Mark Story that he sometimes thought about trying to coach at a level higher than NAIA but that came with sacrifices he wasn’t willing to make.
“We raised three boys,” Cronin said at the time. “I coached Little League baseball for 15 years. Heck, I miss that now. In fall practice, if a kid has a big family reunion, I try to make sure he gets out of practice to go. That’s not going to happen at the Division I level. At our level, I do think things are in perspective a little more. And there’s something to be said for that.”
Georgetown Vice President of Athletics Brian Evans now begins the task of finding a coach who can keep Cronin’s 25 years of excellence going.
“Moments such as this are never easy as it is difficult from the standpoint of saying goodbye to a legend, a leader, a co-worker that you know makes the right kind of difference in these young student-athletes’ lives; while also looking to make the right call on who can, not fill, as no one can fill, but step up and carry the Georgetown banner,” Evans said Monday.
“My first focus is to honor Coach Cronin, his wife and family. Ellen and their sons have been as instrumental in making Georgetown football a family. Ellen has been a rock and her work with parents and alumni will be a notable absence as well next fall.
“My second focus is finding the right fit for our program to carry on this legacy Cronin started.”
Bill Cronin at Georgetown
Year-by-year record as coach of the Tigers:
x-Won NAIA national championship; y-NAIA national runner-up
Note: 2020 season was played in spring of 2021 because of pandemic.