Samford coach Pat Sullivan resigns

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Samford coach Pat Sullivan, who has battled health problems, is resigning and moving into another position with the university.

The university announced Sullivan's decision to step down Tuesday after eight seasons, effective immediately. The former Auburn quarterback won the 1971 Heisman Trophy.

Sullivan, who was treated for throat cancer in 2003, had complications from neck surgery in April and didn't travel for the game at TCU, where he also served as head coach.

"The past couple of years have been difficult," Sullivan said in a statement. "I've been dealing with health issues, more than I would have liked. Our young men have never blinked. This coaching staff never blinked. I am so proud of each and every member of the Samford football program.

"Coaching is a grind. Right now I need more balance in my life. I need to pay more attention to my health and I want to spend more time with (wife) Jean, my children and grandchildren. I owe that to them. But I'm not done working and I'm not leaving Samford."

Sullivan, 64, will be special advisor to the president for campus and community development. He said he will be actively involved in the search for his replacement.

Sullivan is Samford's all-time leader in wins and led the Bulldogs to four straight winning seasons and the 2013 Southern Conference championship. They also earned their first FCS playoff bid since 1992 in 2013.

Samford has won at least seven games each of the past three years, the longest streak since 1962.

"In an age in which public figures so often disappoint us, it is refreshing and inspirational to reflect on the long and successful career of Pat Sullivan," University President Dr. Andrew Westmoreland said. "As I have grown close to Pat in the years since he became Samford's head football coach in 2006 and as I have seen him in some of the highest and lowest moments of life, proximity has only enhanced my profound respect for him."

Sullivan was on the search committee that hired Gus Malzahn as Auburn's football coach two years ago. He spoke to Malzahn's team before the 2013 Southeastern Conference championship game.

"He's one of the true class guys in college football," Malzahn said before Auburn's recent game with Samford. "He's respected by everyone. I've never heard anybody say a bad word about him. He's definitely helped me. I lean on him from time to time with advice. He's an Auburn legend."