Fisher DeBerry is acting as if he will return as Air Force football coach, even if he was again slightly vague Friday when asked if he will return next season. “I’m the football coach at the Air Force Academy, and I’m very proud to be the football coach at the Air Force Academy,” DeBerry said before his team’s annual holiday party at the Salvation Army in Colorado Springs. “I think I have a great and committed staff, and I’m excited about the future of Air Force football.” Some Air Force fans and athletic department officials have wondered whether De-Berry, 67, would continue to coach after he said Nov. 21 that he would need time to reflect on the season before deciding whether to return. Air Force stumbled to a 4-7 record and missed out on a bowl game for the third consecutive season. DeBerry is 165-101-1 in 22 seasons as Air Force’s coach. Earlier this week, Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh said: “There’s nothing Fisher has told me or hinted to me that says he’s not coming back next year. I don’t get that vibe from him.” Asked whether he would coach Air Force next season, DeBerry said, “When I left there a few minutes ago, I was at the academy, and I plan to be the coach.” Fullback Jacobe Kendrick said DeBerry has not told the players anything about his future with the team. “He hasn’t told us that he’s coming back, but we’ve got the impression that he’s not going to leave,” Kendrick said. “He’s our coach, and we’re behind him 100 percent, no matter what he says or what he does. There’s no reason why we wouldn’t want him back next year.” Said quarterback Shaun Carney: “He has been talking like he’s coming back. That’s what we assume.” Nose guard Gilberto Perez maintains DeBerry isn’t solely responsible for Air Force’s shortcomings. “We’re the people on the field,” Perez said. “The coaches are going to try to put us in the right position, and the players have to make the plays. We’re all a team.” DeBerry said his 10 assistant coaches will return next season. He said he hasn’t considered asking Gary Barnett, who was fired as Colorado’s coach Thursday, to join his staff if Barnett doesn’t land a head coaching job. “My heart bleeds for Gary and his family. He’s a great coach and a great person,” said DeBerry, who became close with Barnett when Barnett coached Air Academy from 1973 to 1981. “I know he loves coaching, and he’ll land on his feet.” DeBerry and Air Force’s players entertained about 80 children at the Salvation Army, then gave the children presents and ate hot dogs with them. Offensive lineman Jon Wilson dressed up as Santa Claus for the second consecutive year. Carney’s presents were a football, a basketball, a pair of shorts and some wristbands. Kendrick bought a remote-controlled car. Perez bought a Twister game board. “Once you see the kids’ eyes and their faces light up, it brings out the kid in you,” Perez said. “All these kids want us to sign their shirts and their toys. Whatever makes their day.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0256 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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