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Longtime Pioneers football coach Tim Tierney passes away


Tim Tierney

  • September 19, 2012

The Cal State East Bay Athletics family suffered a loss last week when Tim Tierney, former head football coach and golf coach, passed away as a result of complications from brain surgery on Sept. 15. He was 68.

UPDATE: A "Life Celebration" for Tierney will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 7, at the Irish Cultural Center, 2700 45th Ave., in San Francisco.

A 1964 graduate of San Francisco State University, Tierney was an All Far Western Conference defensive back for the Gators in 1963, and in 1964. After graduation, Tierney was highly sought after by the Philadelphia Eagles, and played in the Eagles organization in 1965 and 1966. After two years in the pro ranks, Tierney returned to San Francisco State to coach the defensive backs.

Tierney then spent three years coaching on the high school level; two years at St. Ignatius in San Francisco, and Homestead High School in 1969-70.

In 1970, Tierney joined the coaching staff at Cal State East Bay (then known as Cal State Hayward) as defensive coordinator.

Five years later in 1975, Tierney became the head football coach at Cal State East Bay, and would remain in that post until the football program was dropped in 1993.

During his 19 years as head coach, Tierney led the Pioneers to a share of the Far Western Conference Championship in 1981, when they had a 4-1 record. The Pioneers finished in second place four times. During the 1977 and 1978 seasons, Tierney guided the Pioneers to an impressive 14-5-1 overall record. The 1978 team finished with an 8-2 record and finished second place 4-1 conference mark. The 8-2 record was the best showing from a Pioneer football team since 1971.  

From 1980-86, the Pioneers posted a 42-26-3 record. The 1984 Pioneer football team had its highest point production since 1971 as it scored 260 points and led the Northern California Athletic Conference in rushing offense.  The following season, the Pioneers eclipsed their point production by scoring 282 points (13th-Division II) and led the NCAC in total defense in allowing an average of 294.8 yards a contest. The Pioneers broke a school record for rushing defense, allowing 67.2 yards a contest. The 1986 Pioneer football team finished with a 7-3 record, marking the eighth time in the last 10 years Cal State Hayward posted a winning record.

Tierney was voted "Co-Coach of the Year" in the conference in 1977 and 1981.

Numerous football players received All-American, All-Region and All-Conference honors under Tierney.    

Tierney coached four Pioneer Athletic Hall of Famers, including Greg Blankenship, Sandy LaBeaux, Mitch Bigger and Bill Myatt. Assistant football coaches and hall of famers Joel Grose and Don Sawyer were on Tierney’s coaching staff.

More than 90 percent of Tierney’s non-conference schedule for 19 years included scholarship institutions. Those schools included Santa Clara, Cal State Northridge, Cal Poly SLO, St. Mary’s and Eastern Washington.

In 2001, Tierney became the head coach of the Pioneer women’s and men’s golf programs. Current East Bay golf coach Alan Sue took over for Tierney in 2005.

Tierney continued to teach in the Kinesiology Department at Cal State East Bay until his retirement in 2007.

Pioneer Hall of Famer and former Athletic Director Al Mathews called Tierney an excellent coach who did a great job with a high profiled program for 19 years.

“I was always impressed with the job Tim did with the football program,” Mathews said. “We had successful teams under Tim in the Far Western Conference and the Northern California Athletic Conference. “Not only was Tim a great coach, he was a good friend with a positive attitude. This is a tremendous lost to his family, friends and the University.”

Stan Hebert, associate vice president, Student Affairs at Cal State East Bay, played for Tim Tierney from 1972-75.

“I was a walk-on in 1972, and Tim, a defensive coach at the time, gave me a shot as a defensive back,” Hebert said. “He developed me into a great defensive back and kick returner.”  “Tim loved coaching and was a stand-up guy. He also wanted his players to be productive in life. I’m saddened by Tim’s passing.”

Alan Sue had these thoughts about Tim Tierney:

“Tim was a great leader,” Sue said. “He was very organized and cared a lot about his teams and coaching staff. Tim cared about me becoming a head coach. I learned so much from Tim about the administrative side of coaching. He helped create the coaching philosophy I use today. Great guy, I will surely miss him.”

Jim Spagle, Pioneer women’s volleyball coach and officemate of Tim Tierney in the Kinesiology department had these comments about Tim:

“I shared an office with Tim for over 10 years,” Spagle said. “In that time, Tim became both my mentor and valued friend.  One of the most intelligent individuals I have ever met, Tim always encouraged me to think and look at things from a variety of positions.  He shared his experience, values, and insight with me at all times.  When he spoke, if you were not listening carefully, you were missing out on excellent insight and knowledge.

“The Pioneer nation has lost a tremendous resource and valued member of a proud and rich heritage. I have lost my own personal coach and great friend.”

Ted Barrett played for Tim Tierney from 1985-86 and was an assistant football coach at Cal State East Bay. Barrett, a current major league umpire, had these thoughts about Tim.

“I attribute my success as a major league umpire to Tim Tierney,” Barrett said. “Tim taught me the value of life both on and off the football field. He preached teamwork and how to overcome adversity. I got to know Tim more when I was member of his coaching staff for one season. Tim gave his heart and soul to the Pioneer football program for 25 years.  What a tremendous loss.” 

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