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Mike Ayers, a Wofford Legend

By BJ Bennett
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Each time the Terriers made history, the man who set the expectations was the same one who saw them met.

After 30 years and 207 wins, Mike Ayers has announced his retirement as the head football coach at Wofford. Ayers, the longest-tenured and winningest coach in school history, leaves the institution as an institution as he is the only man to lead the Terriers at the NCAA Division I level, to date. The program he exits is much different than the one he inherited; Ayers has helped establish Wofford as a national name.

Ayers took over the Terriers in 1988, the year after a 1-10 season. Wofford, immediately, tasked Ayers with overseeing a transition from the NAIA ranks to the NCAA Division II level, an opportunity he and the Terriers immediately made the most of. Year one saw Ayers lead Wofford to a .500 record, with season two resulting in a winning mark; by year three, Ayers had the Terriers in the playoffs. Wofford, with Ayers, was suddenly an emerging brand.

The mid 90s were a continued progression for the Terriers as Ayers guided Wofford through the NCAA Division I-AA landscape, now the FCS. A considerable move for one of the affiliation's smallest schools by enrollment, Ayers' commitment helped the Terriers find consistency. Wofford, in 1997, joined the Southern Conference, a tradition-rich league with roots that run deep. Even as the platform changed, Ayers' principles did not; neither did his conviction.

With a commitment to the triple-option and the benefits of football's fundamentals, Ayers' Terriers quickly developed into a perennial player in one of the game's most-respected leagues, winning the SoCon with a perfect 8-0 record in 2003, going 12-2 overall and advancing to the national final four. That fall, Wofford defeated the likes of Appalachian State, Furman, Georgia Southern and The Citadel in the same season. Wins over North Carolina A&T and Western Kentucky were the program's first playoff victories.  

The Terriers became a tournament regular with Ayers, making eight postseason appearances under his watch. Wherever Wofford went, there Ayers was, timeless in a sport where the clock is always ticking. Each time the Terriers made history, the man who set the expectations was the same one who saw them met.

Over his last 15 years at Wofford, alone, Ayers' teams won five SoCon championships and finished with at least nine wins eight different times. He wraps up his career with the Terriers having won 21 of his last 27 outings, with back-to-back runs to the FCS quarterfinals included. Ayers built Wofford into a national power, a distinction his program still holds as he walks out the door.

A five-time SoCon Coach of the Year honoree and the winner of the 2003 Eddie Robinson Award given to the nation's top FCS head coach, Ayers' legacy is one that can't be framed. Just as he was a mainstay as Wofford went from a little-known program to an annual contender, Ayers has always been there for his players. Ayers, as eras changed, stayed true to who he is. Respected by his peers and looked up to by countless student-athletes, Ayers positively impacted both his program and people.

Though Ayers will no longer be on the sidelines, his work will long be clear to see.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports