Cornell Head Football Coach David Archer after a game in November 2022 against Dartmouth. Credit: Photo by Eldon Lindsay / Cornell Athletics

ITHACA, N.Y.—Cornell University announced a “change in football leadership” Sunday, marking the end of football coach David Archer’s tenure after 11 years.

Archer, who became the youngest active coach in NCAA Division 1 football when he was hired in 2013 at 31 years old, compiled a 29-71 record over his 10 seasons (the Ivy League canceled all athletics during Fall 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). His teams finished as high as fourth in the Ivy League, and Cornell’s five wins in 2022 matched its highest total since 2011.

Athletic Director Dr. Nicki Moore made the announcement Sunday afternoon. The previous day, Cornell lost its season finale to Columbia University 29-14. It was Cornell’s fifth consecutive loss to finish a season that started a promising 3-2 in the team’s first five games. Moore’s statement intimates that Archer was fired, though it is never explicitly stated.

“Big Red football has not had the on-field success I believe it can achieve,” Moore said in the announcement, which credited Archer’s “tremendous energy and passion.” “The culture of the program is strong, the alumni are supportive and there is a deep hunger to translate the many successes off the field to the scoreboard. I’m eager to begin the search to find the next leader of Cornell football.”

Archer is the longest-tenured Big Red football coach since George K. James, who coached his last game for Cornell in the 1960s.

The school’s announcement stated it will initiate a nationwide search for Archer’s replacement. Archer had played for Cornell during the early 2000s and returned to the school as a coach in 2007 until his promotion to head coach in January 2013. Defensive Coordinator Jared Backus will serve as interim head coach in the meantime, Moore said.

“My players and staff have put in tireless work and led with their whole hearts, and I’m eternally grateful for all they’ve given and sacrificed for Cornell football and for me,” Archer said in a statement in the announcement in which he emphasized his love for the program since entering as a freshman in college. “Though I’m proud of the many things we’ve accomplished, unfortunately the results on the field dictate that it is time for new leadership. I look forward to my role as a positive, supportive alumnus of the program that I love so much and will always cheer for the Big Red.”

The signature win of Archer’s tenure likely came in November 2019, when his team defeated Dartmouth to end the Big Green’s bid for an undefeated season. Dartmouth was ranked #12 in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) rankings at the time, making it the highest-ranked opponent Cornell had beaten since a 1939 defeat of Ohio State University.

The school’s announcement praised Archer’s time at the helm, including his involvement in boosting mental health services for players and his leadership during the pandemic. In July, Archer and middle linebacker Jake Stebbins were nominated to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

“The university, department, and program have benefited greatly from his commitment to student-athlete welfare and advocacy in enhancing their experience,” Moore said. “He will always be a cherished member of the Big Red family, and we thank him for the many positive contributions he has made in leading the program.”

It’s another familiar face that will be leaving Cornell’s football team before the 2024 season. A slew of graduating seniors declared their intention to transfer several weeks ago, since the Ivy League does not allow players to participate in athletics after their graduation, unlike other Division I college athletics conferences.

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Matt Butler is the Editor in Chief of The Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at