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Football coach Isaac Parker departs from university

Ernie Samora

Staff Writer

Archived photo from the Willamette University website

Following the Bearcats’ opening week 24-21 victory against La Verne in California, head coach Isaac Parker (‘02, MAT '05) has departed from Willamette. His name and bio have been removed from the athletics website.

Parker, a Willamette graduate himself, took over as head coach in 2019, guiding the team to a 2-8 record. Parker then continued the trend of underwhelming results following the canceled COVID season of 2020. The team went 1-9 in 2021 and 2-8 in 2022.

Tim Rude, the defensive coordinator and defensive back coach, now also serves as the interim head coach for the season. Rude was the running back coach at Western Oregon University from 2015-2020, where he helped lead the team to a historic first victory in the 2019 Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

When asked for an interview regarding Parker’s departure, Rude stated via email, “I appreciate what you’re doing, and WU Football would welcome you to experience our program and give you any access you need to promote our student-athletes. But what I cannot, and will not, do is allow for our program to be a part of any future narratives regarding Coach Parker going forward. I hope that you can understand that, and give our staff and players that space to move forward with our season.”

When asked for comment, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Rob Passage said simply via email, “I am afraid that we cannot discuss personnel matters.”

18 former football players were contacted for comment on the state of the football team by Collegian staff via Willamette email, but all have yet to respond.

Attempts have also been made to contact Parker, but as of now no response has been provided.

Although the university has a pattern of letting go of coaches after a number of underwhelming seasons, the timing of Parker’s departure suggests this is not the sole cause. As a counter example, Kip Ioane, former men’s basketball head coach, was let go in April 2023 following a string of poor seasons. Ioane’s spring release gave the athletics department plenty of time to restaff the vacant position before the next winter basketball season. Similarly, Parker’s predecessor Glen Fowles served as head coach from 2012-2018 before being let go in Nov. 2018, shortly after the end of the 1-8 season. Hiring a new coach is a time-consuming and costly venture. Ioane and Fowles were let go several months prior to the start of a new season, suggesting that there is more to Parker’s absence than is being shared. It should be noted that each statement regarding Parker uses the word “departure,” leaving the nature of his absence vague and undisclosed.

Since Parker’s departure the team has lost to Lewis & Clark 7-38 and to Southern Oregon 7-49.

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