Football: A look back at Charlie Partridge’s tenure as head coach at Florida Atlantic

Partridge went 9-27 during his time at the helm, in which FAU broke several records, not all of which were good.


Charlie Partridge went 3-9 in each of his three seasons at FAU. Photo by Max Jackson

Hans Belot Jr., Sports Editor


fter a three-year spell that was marked by more lows than highs on the field, Florida Atlantic fired head football coach Charlie Partridge on Nov. 27, 2016.

Partridge’s tenure ended one day after the Owls lost 77-56 to Middle Tennessee, the most points an FAU team has ever given up in a single game. He finished his FAU coaching days 9-27 and never won more than two games in a row.

The Plantation, Florida native was hired after a one-year stint as the defensive line coach and assistant head coach with the University of Arkansas. Prior to that, he spent four years with the University of Wisconsin, holding various positions.

We take a look back at the lows, highs and the lows again of Partridge’s time at FAU:

Dec. 16, 2013: Charlie Partridge is introduced at FAU

Following a turbulent 6-6 season which saw then-head coach Carl Pelini resign midseason after drug allegations, FAU hired Partridge to become the fourth head coach in program history and take charge of the rebuilding project.

Partridge took over for Brian Wright — who finished the season as the interim head coach — and from the start, Partridge was keen on bringing a family type bond and atmosphere to the locker room.

“The growth of a young man from 18 to 22 cannot be measured,” Patridge said during his introductory press conference. “For me to have an opportunity to lead a program and make a difference in people’s lives within that timeframe is why I got into the business.”

FAU’s defense allowed the most points and yards per game in Conference USA during Charlie Partridge’s final season as head coach. Photo by Max Jackson

Aug. 30 & Sept. 6, 2014: First two games in charge

Right off the bat, Partridge was given two tough opponents on the road.

First was a matchup against the No. 22 ranked Nebraska, which had a roster that included current NFL players Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell.

It was a lopsided 55-7 win in favor of the Cornhuskers, but Partridge’s career in Boca Raton was off and running.

The second game would not get any easier for the Owls, as they had to visit Alabama, the No. 2 ranked team in the country at the time.

The Crimson Tide’s roster featured Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper and New York Giants safety Landon Collins, both of whom earned a spot in February’s Pro Bowl, as well as Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner. That trio helped lead the team to a 12-2 season and a loss in the college playoff to eventual champion Ohio State.

It was another brutal loss, 41-0, but the Owls looked forward to what they were capable of doing.

“They showed that they have a chance to develop into the kind of team and program that, at some point, will be able to perform better from a point comparison when we are playing against the likes of Alabama,” Partridge said at the time.

2014: First season in Boca

Partridge’s first season at the helm ended 3-9 after closing out the year with a tight 31-28 loss to Old Dominion.

The Owls ended the season on a five-game losing streak, including a 35-16 loss to then-No. 23 ranked Marshall. Three of those losses came at home.

For the sixth consecutive season, the Owls failed to make a bowl appearance and also failed to finish with a record over .500.

February 2015: First recruiting class for Partridge

Following a disappointing first season in charge, Partridge made it his primary mission to go out and recruit, especially in the Florida area.

Partridge’s first official recruiting class, in 2015, included players like defensive back Jalen Young, linebackers Azeez Al-Shaair and Ocie Rose and running back Kerrith Whyte.

All three of the defensive players went on to make Conference USA’s All-Freshman team last year and Whyte, who redshirted his first year, was named part of that same team this year. Al-Shaair also earned a spot on USA Today’s Freshman All-American team.

The 2015 class was ranked second in Conference USA according to 247sports, a website that focuses on high school football and basketball recruits.

Other than Whyte redshirting, Young, Al-Shaair and Rose went on to play in every game during their first season.

Al-Shaair and Young led the team in tackles this season with 113 and 100 respectively, and they started every game they played in.

The Owls never won more than two consecutive games under Partridge’s watch. Photo by Max Jackson

Oct. 31, 2015: First Shula Bowl win

Partridge’s second season in charge did not start off headed in a better direction. FAU began the season 1-6, topped off by a 44-20 home loss to the University of Miami in week two.

Come week eight, the Owls were hosting in-state rival Florida International, a team they had beaten just once in their past three meetings prior to that. The year before, the Golden Panthers handed FAU a 38-10 loss.

All of that seemed to be behind them when the Owls jumped out to an early 17-7 first-half lead. FIU began to get back into the game by cutting down the lead to just seven heading into the fourth quarter, but the Owls scored 14 unanswered to seal the win.

“That’s a moment in the game where I said, ‘All right, our kids are starting to grow up here,’” Partridge said following the game.

Nov. 21, 2015: Gator hunting falls short

Perhaps the best moment in Partridge’s time on the football field occurred in November 2015. FAU, on a two-game losing streak, traveled to Gainesville to play then-eighth-ranked University of Florida and was full of confidence, according to Partridge.

The Owls put up a fight in a defensive grind, holding the Gators scoreless in the first half and allowing just 69 total yards.

However, FAU’s offense was never able to get going and the score was still tied at 14 following regulation.

The Gators scored on their initial drive in the overtime period and FAU was unable to capitalize when it took over for its first drive.

The score ended 20-14 in favor of Florida, but Partridge saw mostly positives after the game.

“We are a few yards away from beating a top-10 team in the country, where there is playoff implications,” Partridge said after the loss. “But really, it is a snapshot of what we can become, where we are headed and with all the youth that is on the field.

“You come in and you watch the film and there are so many plays that we could have done things better than we did. They weren’t intimidated by the environment. They went in there expecting to fight for a win and we did. Didn’t get it done and came up short but I’m excited about where I think we can go.”

Dec. 2015: Second season in the books

Partridge ended his second term in charge with his second consecutive 3-9 season. The Owls went 1-5 at home for the season and finished the season with the worst home attendance in Conference USA.

However, Partridge was excited about where the team was heading, and foresaw a better 2016 season than his first two years in charge.

“I see us getting better. I really do,” said Partridge after the last game of the season, which was a 31-28 win over Old Dominion. “It is exciting to see where we were going and how much better we were getting.”

After the season, Partridge welcomed his third recruiting class, which included running back Devin Singletary and tight end Harrison Bryant, both of whom made the Conference USA All-Freshman team.

2016 season: Final year

For the first time since 2012, FAU won its season opener versus Football Championship Subdivision’s Southern Illinois 38-30, when the Owls amassed a total of 452 yards.

However, the Owls then went on a seven-game losing streak, with several fans calling for the firing of Partridge after the 1-7 start.

“It was time for him to go,” said John Lewis, a long time fan of FAU football who said he’s been following the Owls since the Howard Schnellenberger days. “He’s not producing wins, attendance is declining. It’s sad every time I go into that stadium and I am probably the only one within a three-mile distance.”

One of the Owls losses included a second-straight drubbing at the hand of the Hurricanes, this time a 38-10 beating on the road in Miami.

One week later, the worst loss in program history — a 63-7 defeat — took place at the hands of Kansas State University. The Owls also fell to Western Kentucky University 52-3, the worst home loss in the team’s history.

After the seven game losing streak, the Owls went on to win two games in a row — the first time in the Partridge era — but dropped the last consecutive two games, ending in Partridge’s third straight 3-9 season.

“This season may have been the saddest one yet,” said Ken James, a 45-year-old alumnus who said he comes to every home game. “It was sad because they had so much potential, offense and defense, but they did not have a good enough coaching staff around them to propel them the right way.”

Nov. 27, 2016: Partridge gets the boot

FAU announced Partridge’s firing one day after a 77-56 loss to Middle Tennessee in the final game of the season, when the Owls put up one of their worst defensive performances yet.

He won 25 percent of his games at FAU, tying Carl Pelini for the worst percentage in program history.

On Dec. 13, 2016, FAU introduced Lane Kiffin as its fifth head coach, officially closing the door on Partridge’s tenure.

Hans Belot Jr. is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him at @Don_Phenom_.