Joe cited unexplained “health issues” for his retirement. He leaves Miles as the second all-time winningest coach in HBCU history with more than 240 wins, trailing only Grambling’s Eddie G. Robinson.
The Birmingham-based Division II program is coming off a humbling 51-0 loss at Tuskegee, which dropped Miles to 2-4 overall and 2-3 in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Miles said in a release that Patrick Peasant, an assistant offensive-line coach, will assume interim duties as a national search begins.
“It’s been a great and glorious three-year ride,” Joe said, in the school release. “But health concerns are becoming too much of a challenge for me to continue in my current capacity. I’m still going to be around though to support the college and become the school’s No. 1 fan.”
Joe opened his tenure at Miles in 2008 with a 2-8 overall record and 2-7 league mark, as he struggled to find the personnel to run his signature “Gulf Coast Offense.” In 2009, he was 4-7. Last week, Miles never got into Tuskegee’s red zone — managing just 102 yards of offense and collecting more penalties than first downs.
That was a long fall from the familiar fireworks seen at Florida A&M from 1994-2004, when Joe’s spread attack helped the Rattlers to four Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles and seven postseason appearances. In 1998, FAMU led the FCS in scoring, passing and total offense on the way to to an 11-2 record and a second-round playoff berth. A year later, the Rattlers upset higher-ranked teams in Appalachian State and Troy State in the FCS postseason before falling to Youngstown State, going 10-4.
Joe was named MEAC Coach of the Year in 1995, 1996 and 2001. That sterling run ended in June 2005 when FAMU came under NCAA investigation; the program was eventually placed on probation for 196 violations in 15 men’s and women’s sports — though the NCAA eventually cleared Joe. A lawsuit followed, and he briefly flirted with the offensive coordinator job at MEAC foe Hampton in 2007, before taking over at Miles.
As a pro player, the Villanova product was named 1963 rookie of the year in the old American Football League while with the Denver Broncos. After a 1965 trade to the Buffalo Bills, Joe made the All-Star Team and was a starter for the club in its AFL Championship victory over the San Diego Chargers. Later, he was a member of the New York Jets’ unlikely title-winning 1969 squad, as well.
Asked earlier this year about quarterback Joe Namath’s famous guarantee that the Jets would claim victory over the favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, Joe told The Birmingham News: “We were stunned — not because we didn’t think we’d win, but we didn’t want to give the Colts any fuel. We got on Joe pretty hard after we read that, and he said, ‘Don’t worry. We’re going to win.’ We said, ‘We know, Joe. But you don’t have to tell everybody.'”
Joe later served a stint as assistant running backs coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, and then led Central State to NAIA national titles in 1990 and ’92, and to the Division II national finals in 1983 and the NAIA finals in 1991. Twelve times, Joe earned national coach of the year honors from the Pigskin Club of Washington, D.C. — including consecutive years over an entire decade from 1983 to 1992.
A college career that also includes a stop at Cheyney University in Pennsylvania was then recognized in ’07 with Joe’s induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Joe has been inducted into the Florida A&M University Sports and the MEAC halls of fame, as well.
“Coach Billy Joe has been a tremendous service to our athletic program and to the institution overall,” Miles school president George T. French Jr. said. “His presence will be missed.”