After three seasons away from Yale, Tony Reno is coming back home.
Yale will officially introduce Reno, who is currently a defensive backs and special teams coach at Harvard, as the 34th head coach of its football program today at 4 p.m. The announcement came 22 days after former head coach Tom Williams formally announced his resignation amid controversy over his history as a Rhodes Scholarship candidate.
Two sources with knowledge of the search process confirmed Wednesday evening that Reno has been tapped to fill the vacant spot. Earlier this week, reports emerged in the press that UConn defensive coordinator Don Brown was offered the Yale job. However, Brown withdrew his name from consideration within hours of the reports surfacing.
Four Yale players said they have not heard an official announcement yet. Three Harvard players reached Wednesday night said they have not been informed of any changes in the Crimson coaching staff.
Reno served under former Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki from 2002-’08, spending the first five seasons as the defensive backs coach. Yale’s passing defense ranked third in the nation in both the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
In 2006, Reno helped to guide the Bulldogs to a share of the Ivy League Championship, their first since 1999, as well as Yale’s last win over Harvard in The Game in 2006. The next year, he was promoted to assistant head coach.
After Siedlecki retired following a disappointing 6–4 season in 2008, Reno left Yale for archrival Harvard. For the last three seasons, Reno coached the Crimson’s defensive backs as well as its special teams. The Crimson have won all three Games that he had coached.
While Reno has never been a head coach or coordinator at the Division I level, his popularity among former players may have helped to strengthen his candidacy. His hiring comes at a crucial time for the Bulldogs’ recruiting process. According to Yale Director of Athletics Tom Beckett, the University is supposed to host recruits for its next class of Bulldogs this weekend and next weekend.
Reno graduated from Worcester State College in 1997 and was a three-year starter at free safety for the Division III program. He gained his first coaching experience as the defensive ends coach for King’s College in Pennsylvania from 1997-’98. He then returned to his alma mater, where he worked as a secondary coach and defensive coordinator until he joined the Bulldogs for the 2003 season.
Georgetown head coach Kevin Kelly and Lehigh offensive coordinator Dave Cecchini were also interviewed for the job. Kelly withdrew his name from consideration early Wednesday evening.
Reno will inherit a 5–5 team that this season fell short of its aspiration of an Ancient Eight title and suffered its worst defeat, 45–7, against Harvard in 29 years. The Bulldogs will graduate eight players on defense in May, including linebacker and former captain Jordan Haynes ’12, who led the Ivy League in tackles this past season. Linebacker and captain Will McHale ’13, along with defensive backs Kurt Stottlemyer ’13 and Nick Okano ’14, the remaining three starters, will form the core of the new defense.
On the other side of the ball, the Elis will lose two dynamic playmakers in quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 and Alex Thomas ’12. But the team will also feature the deepest receiver corps in the league, led by Chris Smith ’13. The Bulldogs will also return five starting offensive linemen and tailback Mordecai Cargill ’13, who had a career-high 530 rushing yards last season.
Reno has two sons, Dante and Vince, and a daughter, Angelina, with his wife Toni. He will be Yale football’s third head coach in five years.