With cutoff T-shirt on his back and headphones in his ears, Seville Ko tucked himself deep in the Emporia State football weight room. It was the only place that seemed right.
Just an hour before, Dave Wiemers had announced his resignation as ESU football coach to his players in the locker room. Some teammates cried. Others hugged.
Ko simply sat, not knowing what to say or do. He remembered the day that Wiemers had come to his living room and met his parents three years ago — the day the running back committed to ESU without visiting campus and without knowing a person on the team other than Wiemers himself.
After a half hour in the locker room, Ko finally realized what he had to do.
“All I know to do is work harder,” Ko said. “That’s why you just caught me right here.”
It was the first day of moving on for all the Hornet football players, as Wiemers’ eight-year coaching career at ESU came to an end on Thursday with his resignation.
In his six seasons as head coach, Wiemers finished with an overall record of 35-32.
“After committing eight years of my life to ESU football, I feel that it is time for me to step down as head coach,” Wiemers said in a released statement. “As difficult as it is to leave, I believe it is the best thing to do for myself, my family and the future of the program.”
The news became official shortly after Wiemers addressed his team at a 3 p.m. meeting. According to players, he announced his resignation and told team members to stay strong and together through the transition.
“It really is devastating,” ESU senior El Ray Henry said. “It’s all because of our season. If we had a better season, this wouldn’t have happened.”
The resignation came just five days after ESU’s 34-33 year-ending loss to Missouri Southern at home.
The Hornets finished the season with a 3-8 record, losing their final seven games.
Ko said many of the players couldn’t help but feel somewhat responsible.
“Of course if we won, this would never be an issue,” Ko said. “Coaches aren’t out there playing for us and they’re not out there turning the ball over or fumbling or whatever. It’s just a tough deal, whatever way you look at it.”
Following a 5-6 record his first season, Wiemers led the Hornets to consecutive 9-3 years in 2002 and 2003. The two-year span included a victory in the 2002 Mineral Water Bowl and ESU’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA Playoffs in 2003. He was named Wilson/MIAA Coach of the Year after the 2003 season.
“I’m very proud of our team and the accomplishments of our program throughout the last eight years,” Wiemers said. “We have taken Hornet football to a new level, and left a solid foundation on which the program can continue to grow.”
Since 2003, ESU has suffered through three consecutive losing campaigns. The Hornets were 5-6 in 2004, 4-6 in 2005 and 3-8 in 2006.
This year’s squad never did live up to expectations. After being picked sixth in the conference, ESU finished eighth, posting only two conference victories.
“The blame finger — it goes everywhere,” Henry said. “We could have played harder. It’s natural for us to blame ourselves, just like the coaches are blaming themselves. That’s just how it goes. We’re hurting.”
Many of the players left the locker room teary-eyed, while others lingered around nearly an hour after the meeting, giving their goodbyes to assistant coaches.
“It’s very unexpected,” ESU senior quarterback Justin Whitworth said. “A lot of guys weren’t really ready for it. Sometimes I don’t think it’s fair, but the university’s got to do what it thinks is best.”
ESU Athletic Director Kent Weiser said the search for a new coach would begin immediately. There is no timetable for the selection of a new candidate.
Weiser said he appreciated the contributions Wiemers had made to ESU football.
“I have a lot of respect for Dave Wiemers,” Weiser said. “He’s a good man and a good coach. We’re sad to see him go.”
Weiser said it was likely that strength and conditioning coach Danny Cavender would oversee the football team in its offseason program during the transition between coaches.
Still, Henry said it would be up to the returning players to stay committed over the next month.
“They need to do their best to stick by each other,” Henry said. “It’s easier to lose focus without a head man or leader around. We need some people to step up and become leaders to try to keep the team together through all this.”
Ko started that process with his weight room work Thursday, doing exactly what his former coach would have wanted him to do.
“I’m just going to try to keep track of all my younger (running) backs that I have right now and my offensive linemen,” Ko said. “Obviously, not everyone is going to get in here, but all I can do is just make sure my group of guys continue to stay on track.”