Gary Tanner has decided his 14th season as head football coach at Haskell Indian Nations University will be his last.
Tanner told his players on Wednesday night of his decision to resign as the Fightin' Indians' head coach at the end of the 2000 season.
"It's a health thing," said Tanner, 42. "I could have stayed if I wanted, but it's a matter of my health."
Tanner, who suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, said he takes 14 to16 pills a day to treat his ailments and to relieve stress.
"Lately a lot of symptoms started accumulating," Tanner said, "and it was affecting how I was coaching."
Earlier Wednesday, Tanner talked to Karen Swisher, the school's interim president, and athletics director Jerry Tuckwin.
"It was a pretty good shock to us," Tuckwin said. "But I knew he'd been having some serious medical concerns. He was having difficulty with his energy level and he didn't want to be a detriment to the program."
HINU is halfway through its first full season as a member of the NAIA. Last year, the Tribe played some four-year schools and some junior varsity programs. Prior to that, Haskell was a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Tanner, a native of Jay, Okla., played football at Haskell in 1976-77. Later, he graduated from Northeastern, Okla., State and came to Haskell as coach of the school's wrestling program in 1985.
Tanner was also an assistant football coach. Two years later he was promoted to head coach, a position he has held ever since.
Haskell's football players were caught off guard by Tanner's announcement.
"It was right out of the blue," said Stan Holder, an outside linebacker who is one of only two seniors on the squad. "It was kind of shocking. I didn't think coach Tanner would ever give up the game."
Junior quarterback Brandon Watson was just as surprised.
"He called that meeting and it was a shock," Watson said. "He told us about the medical reasons, but it really was a surprise."
Tanner serves an unusual dual role as football coach and women's softball coach. Although he will give up his football post, he will remain on the Haskell staff and continue to coach softball.
"I sure love being here and doing what I'm doing," Tanner said, "and I really appreciate what the school is doing for me."
Tuckwin said he hoped to have a search committee in place by the end of the football season.
"Hopefully, we can name someone by the first of the year," he said.
Because Haskell is funded by the U.S. government, the school has to operate under a strict budget and, as it stands now, will have to fill Tanner's position without an available teaching slot.
Haskell, 2-3, has five games remaining, starting with a home game against Langston, Okla., University at 1 p.m. on Saturday.