Eastern Illinois announced Sunday afternoon that it will not renew the contract of Kim Dameron, who just completed his fifth year as Panthers' head coach.
The Panthers were 3-8 this season and have not made the FCS playoffs since 2015. Dameron's record was 27-30 in his five seasons in Charleston. He had winning seasons in three of the five years.
"I was told at noon (Sunday) that my contract would not be renewed. For whatever reason, they decided to make a change," Dameron told Justin Rust of the Journal Gazette & Times Courier. "I gave them an excuse to let me go by only winning three games this year. I am proud of all I did here and of all of the kids."
Dameron was hired by former EIU athletic director Barbara Burke, now the deputy athletic director at the University of Iowa. Dameron replaced Dino Babers, who left EIU to become the head coach of FBS-level Bowling Green. Babers, who took Eastern to the playoffs both of his years in Charleston, is currently head coach at nationally ranked Syracuse.
Dameron's dismissal marks the first time that EIU has failed to renew a head football coach's contract since John Konstantinos in 1977. All of the coaches who followed Konstantinos left Eastern for other jobs (Darrell Mudra, Al Molde, Babers) or retired (Bob Spoo).
EIU athletic director Tom Michael said in a statement, "I would like to thank coach Dameron, his family and staff for their work at Eastern Illinois over the past five years," Michael said. "These are never easy decisions to make, but I felt that it was in the best interest in our program and players to go in a new direction with Eastern Illinois football next year."
Prairie State Pigskin was unable to reach Michael Sunday.
Rust noted that Dameron went 24-18 in OVC play, however EIU only finished in the top three in the conference in two of his five seasons.
"The thing that baffles me is that my winning percentage in the OVC the last five years is about 60 percent, which is identical to Jason Simpson at UT-Martin," Dameron told Rust. "Now my winning percentage out of conference wasn't good. But we all know when you play two Missouri Valley schools, especially Illinois State every year, that's tough. In the past, Eastern Illinois used to play them in the first round of the playoffs and very rarely got out of the first round."
Eastern lost to both Illinois State (48-10) and Indiana State (55-41) from the Missouri Valley Football Conference this season.
The state's budget crisis certainly is a factor for the Illinois FCS programs.
"I don't want to feel like I am making excuses because I am not. This isn't an easy place. When I first got here, Barbara Burke and president William Perry were here and it was all about new stadiums," Dameron told Rust. "Then the first year I was here, it was about budget cuts and furlough days and not hiring coaches. I am not using it as an excuse, but it wasn't easy to win here."
The official EIU release stated that a national search for Dameron's replacement will begin immediately.