Carl Gustafson, a two-time American Southwest Conference Coach of the Year, is retiring as head football coach of the Texas Lutheran Bulldogs.
Gustafson made the announcement Thursday afternoon to his players and to his coaching staff.
"This has been my 35th year doing what I love to do," said Gustafson. "But in those 35 years, for me to be able to do what I loved to do, a lot of people made sacrifices. My wife Charlotte, she has been my strongest supporter and encourager. The reality is that during these past 35 years she has had to run the household and in many ways raise our kids, allowing me to go and chase my dreams. Charlotte has always been so supportive. She understands the positive impact that coaching has on young people's lives. Football as a game gives us a lot of opportunities to teach life lessons."
“You are coaching a game you love, and you are building lifelong relationships along the way. Ultimately, that is the best reward that there could be. The irony is that many coaches get into this profession because they want to have a positive impact on young people. While we hope that we have had an impact on them, we know that they have had a profound impact on our lives. In many ways it is not a profession but a way of life. I will miss that way of life. Both of our kids are getting ready to graduate, one from a doctoral program and one from graduate school, and I've gotten to a point that I look forward to a little slower pace and to being home.”
Gustafson retires after three seasons with the Bulldogs. He was the 2017 and the 2019 ASC Coach of the Year. He registered the second-best winning percentage in school history for a TLU head football coach with more than 15 wins.
“I’m so grateful for all that Coach Gus has given to TLU,” TLU President Dr. Debbie Cottrell said. “He is a talented coach, a great teacher, and a valued member of our community. He has done an outstanding job, and he will be missed.”
Gustafson and the Bulldogs went 21-9 in his three seasons as head coach, producing a winning percentage of .700. This past season, Gustafson guided the Bulldogs to a program-best second-place finish in the ASC. TLU went 8-2 overall and 8-1 in league play.
"I am so appreciative to end my coaching career at Texas Lutheran," said Gustafson. "This university is all about relationships, and it is all about its people. And I sincerely cannot imagine a better place for young people to pursue a college degree. That is why it was always so easy to recruit here because I knew what this university could do for young people. I will cherish for the rest of my life the relationships that were developed and nurtured here at this university. I love what this university stands for. Part of what it stands for is that sense of community, and I am so thankful that I have been able to be a part of the TLU community. I will always be TLU's No. 1 fan."
"This university is what it is because of the leadership we have been blessed to have through the years. I would be remiss if I did not express my gratitude to Dr. Stuart Dorsey, who was president when I was hired for this role, to current TLU President Dr. Debbie Cottrell for her continued support and encouragement, and to Director of Athletics Bill Miller for his leadership, guidance, and friendship. Coach Miller leads an athletics department that is focused on the kids first. And that is the way that it should be. Looking to the future, the best is yet to come for our football program, and the best is yet to come for this university because of its people."
In 2017, Gustafson's first year as head coach, he took a team coming off a 2-8 season and produced a 6-4 overall record and 6-3 mark in the always-tough ASC. TLU had six returning starters on offense and two returning starters on defense when Gustafson took the job on Nov. 17, 2016. In the 2017 ASC Preseason Coaches' Poll, TLU was picked seventh out of 10 teams.
But with a vastly improved defense and a powerful rushing attack, Gustafson and the Bulldogs grabbed a third-place league finish that tied for the Bulldogs' then best-ever finish in the ASC. Gustafson and the Bulldogs carried that 2017 momentum into the 2018 and 2019 seasons, compiling an overall record of 15-5 (.750) and a league mark of 14-4 (.778) in that two-year span.
"My heart is full because of the guys on the team these past three seasons," said Gustafson. "I have been truly privileged to call myself their head coach. Football teams are always measured by wins and losses, and this team has made us proud in that regard, but I am most proud and most rewarded by how these young men handle themselves off the field and in the classroom. I will miss the players dearly."
"In addition to being with our players, if I have done anything else well, it is that I have been able to play a part in building what I think is one of the best coaching staffs in this area. It has been a dream of mine to be able to coach with many of these men, and I will miss them. I will miss their camaraderie. They are all great coaches, but more than that they are all really good men and good role models for our young people."
TLU's eight wins in the ASC in 2019 were the most by a Bulldog squad in the university's 18 seasons in the ASC (1998-2012, 2017-present). The eight overall wins marked just the eighth time in TLU's 85 football seasons that the Bulldogs won that many games in a single season.
The 2019 Bulldogs were ranked in the Top 25 and in the NCAA Division III South Region rankings at times during the 2019 season, and TLU played for the conference championship on Nov. 9 at defending national champion Mary Hardin-Baylor.
"Not only did Carl Gustafson consistently win football games for us at Texas Lutheran, he always did it with class, integrity, and professionalism," said Bill Miller, TLU's director of athletics. "I will miss Carl. He always did things the right way, and I never had to worry about the direction he was taking our football program. His coaching record, but more importantly his record of molding and mentoring our student-athletes, will long be remembered here."
"And as much as I want Carl to stay with us and continue, I know that when a coach knows it is time to retire, then it is time to retire. I wish Carl and his wife Charlotte all the best in Carl's retirement. It will be an adjustment for all of us, but I am happy for Carl and for Charlotte and their family. We have been very blessed to have them with us."
The Bulldogs were picked fourth in the 2019 ASC Preseason Football Poll. TLU was picked behind UMHB, Hardin-Simmons, and East Texas Baptist. On their way to a runner-up finish in the ASC, the Bulldogs defeated ETBU 31-21 in Marshall, Texas on Sept. 21 and then defeated then-No. 6 HSU 38-27 in Abilene, Texas on Oct. 5. The win over HSU was the second win for TLU all-time at the Cowboys' Shelton Stadium and the third overall victory against the Cowboys in 22 tries.
The wins over ETBU and HSU were part of the Bulldogs' seven-game win streak entering the UMHB game.
In addition to Gustafson's 2019 coaching honor, the Bulldogs placed five student-athletes on the All-ASC First Team, five on the All-ASC Second Team, and seven on the All-ASC Honorable Mention squad.
TLU also added playing All-American and Academic All-American® honors in 2019 for defensive end Manny Longoria, who became the second Bulldog football player in school history to have academic and playing All-America honors in the same year. Longoria is a two-time Academic All-American®.
Offensive linemen Garrett Garza, free safety James Bell, and Longoria received 2019 D3football.com All-South Region awards, and Longoria and punter Justice Porter were named to the 2019 CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team.
With Gustafson as head coach in 2017, D3football.com named offensive lineman Alejandro Briseno a playing All-American.
Gustafson was named TLU's head coach in 2017, one year removed from serving the 2014 and 2015 TLU Football teams as the offensive line coach and as director of football operations. With Gustafson on then-Head Coach Danny Padron's coaching staff, the Bulldogs went 17-4, won a pair of Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships and advanced to the NCAA Division III Football Championship (first round) in 2014.
TLU lost to Mary Hardin-Baylor 27-20 in that 2014 NCAA Division III first round contest in Belton, Texas. With Gustafson's offensive line leading the way, TLU rushed for 308 yards on 71 carries against the second-ranked Crusaders. TLU held the ball for 48 minutes and 22 seconds.
In 2014, Gustafson was the position coach for TLU All-American offensive lineman Kendall Wilkerson, who was named to the All-Time Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Team. Wilkerson, an offensive guard, was a 2014 All-American and the 2014 TLU Capt. Thomas E. Eddy Award Winner. Gustafson also was the position coach for 2015 All-American offensive lineman Christopher Bennett. Gustafson was the head football coach at San Antonio Christian High School, Winston Churchill High School in San Antonio, and New Braunfels Canyon High School. In his head football coaching and athletics coordinator days at Churchill, Gustafson coached the Chargers to the Area state playoff round in 2000 and to the Bi-District state playoff round in 2006. In 2003, Churchill was the Dan Cook Cup Winner as the top-rated athletic program in San Antonio. Churchill also claimed the University Interscholastic League (UIL) Lone Star Cup Championship in 2000. At New Braunfels Canyon, as head football coach and athletics director, Gustafson coached the Cougars to the 1998 state quarterfinal round. In 2006, Gustafson was elected to the Board of Directors in the Texas High School Coaches Association. In 2004, he was selected as the head coach in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. From 2001-03, Gustafson served as the chairman of the Football Advisory Committee for the Texas High School Coaches Association.
Gustafson holds a Master of Science degree in School Administration from Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University - Kingsville) in Kingsville, Texas. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from the University of Texas at Austin. Gustafson and his wife, Charlotte, have been married for over 32 years. The Gustafsons have two adult children: Trey and Katy. Trey is in the doctoral program at Stanford University. He is scheduled to graduate in the summer of 2020. Katy is completing her graduate program at Baylor University, and she will graduate in May. Charlotte is the librarian at Churchill High School in San Antonio. Gustafson's late father, Marvin, is a San Antonio Sports Hall of Famer and a high school coaching and athletics administration legend. The Northside ISD football complex is named C. Marvin Gustafson Stadium. Cliff Gustafson, Carl Gustafson's uncle, is the legendary former baseball coach of the University of Texas.