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Cornell Head Coach Resigns To Become Defensive Coordinator at Duke
Jim Knowles ‘87 has resigned his position as The Roger J. Weiss ‘61 Coach of Football at Cornell and has accepted the defensive coordinator position at Duke University. A national search for a new head coach will begin immediately. Knowles took over the position at his alma mater in January 2004, becoming the 25th head football coach at Cornell. In his six years, Knowles posted a 26-34 record and a 16-26 mark in Ivy play.
Known as a strong defensive mind, Knowles’ 2005 squad finished second nationally in rushing defense (88.3 ypg.) and gave up just 33 yards total on the ground in the final three contests. The Big Red also ranked fourth nationally in total defense (261.3 ypg.) and 18th in the country in scoring defense (18.0 ppg.). The offense more than held its own, ranking 10th in the country in rushing offense (248.6 ypg.) and posting two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season for the first time in school history and the second time ever in the Ivy League. Senior offensive tackle Kevin Boothe earned first-team All-America honors and was selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.
The former Big Red assistant engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in Ivy League history in 2004, turning a 1-9 team that lost seven games by at least two touchdowns into a 4-6 squad that dropped all six contests by 10 points or less, including four by a touchdown or less. The turnaround couldn’t have been more dramatic. A team picked to finish last in the Ivy League finished in sole possession of third place, becoming the first team in Ivy League history to record a winless conference season one year and a winning record the next. The Big Red defense, ranked last in the Ivy League and 104th out of 121 teams nationally in the FCS against the run at 205.0 yards allowed per game in 2003, cut that average in half (101.1 ypg.) to rank first in the Ivy League and seventh nationally.
His teams went 19-12 at home. His 2005 squad went 4-1 at home and posted its first winning season overall (6-4) in seven years. The 2006 squad went one better, going 5-1 for its first five-win campaign at Schoellkopf since 1971. Included were two wins over ranked teams (No. 23 Albany and No. 15 Princeton) and a victory over reigning Patriot League champion Colgate. The 2007 squad registered its third straight season at or above .500 for the first time in 15 years with its 5-5 record.
Knowles had previously spent nine seasons as an assistant coach at Cornell (1988-96), helping lead the team to Ivy League titles in 1988 and 1990. He coached the linebackers (1995-96) and running backs (1989-94) and served as the recruiting coordinator (1995-96) and directed special teams, with one season in charge of the defensive line (1988). Along with the 1988 Ivy League title, the Big Red’s rushing (113.8) and scoring defense (13.7) ranked No. 1 in the East and was 10th and seventh, respectively, in the nation. In 1990, the team featured the No. 11 rushing offense (237.0) in the country.
A three-year letter winner at defensive end as a player for Cornell, Knowles earned All-Ivy honors and honorable mention All-Eastern College Athletic Conference accolades in 1986. He graduated in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
By Cornell University Sports Information