FOOTBALL: Ball State defensive coordinator announces retirement after 35 years of coaching

Parrish will move quickly to find Graber's replacement

Defensive coordinator Doug Graber announced Monday he will retire after one year at Ball State University.

Graber cited family issues as the reason for his departure in a press release. The 66-year-old had been a football coach for 35 years and joined Ball State's staff last year after his good friend Stan Parrish was hired as head coach.

"We're lifetime friends and we wanted to make this thing work out," Parrish said. "But Doug had to do what's best for his family."

Graber was unavailable for comment Monday after returning to Florida, where his family lives.

Parrish said he wasn't surprised by Graber's decision to retire.

"Doug had some family, personal issues that he hoped to get cleaned up," Parrish said. "He had to make a tough decision and so be it. We had known about it for some time."

Graber began coaching in 1966 at St. Francis Cabrini High School in Allen Park Michigan. He was an assistant coach at Ball State from 1976-1977 on his way to a career that included the head coaching job at Rutgers University from 1990-1995 and eight years in the NFL.

Parrish will begin the search for Graber's replacement immediately. He said candidates could come from in or outside the program, but he wants to move fast.

"I want to move as quickly as I can so the new person can have enough adjustment time before spring practice," Parrish said. 

When the Cardinals open spring practice March 24, Parrish expects some transition for the young defense. To minimize the change, he said Ball State isn't planning on changing terminology or schemes.

"Anytime there's a change, there's an impact," he said. "We have four other outstanding [defensive coaches] who I think will give us a good steady hand. We just have to do what's best for the kids."

Ball State will lose four players who saw significant time in last year's defense. Safety Alex Knipp, linebacker Sam Woodworth and defensive linemen Brandon Crawford and Drew Duffin have used up their eligibility and leave holes in the defense. But the new defensive coordinator will inherit a strong group of defensive recruits that Parrish expects to have immediate impact.

"I think all three of the DBs are really, really good," Parrish said. "They'll all, I think, be able to come in and be able and contend to play, much like the linebackers a year ago. These guys from a skills standpoint are all very good players."

The biggest loss for Parrish, however, will be Graber. Parrish was Graber's offensive coordinator at Rutgers and hoped Graber would spend more time on his staff at Ball State.

"He'll always be great friend," Parrish said. "I'm just glad we had one more year to work together. I will always hold him in high regard."