MACOMB, Ill. (WGEM) -- Only time will tell if Western Illinois rallies from it's 1-2 start to the college football season or withers to extend it's playoff drought to six consecutive seasons.
We do know one thing however, it won't be with Don Patterson as head coach.
Patterson fought to beat cancer, graduated from West Point, and led Western Illinois' football program to national prominence.
But now he's out of a job.
The university says Patterson resigned for health reasons, now offensive coordinator Mark Hendrickson steps in as interim head coach for the second time in as many seasons. Together Hendrickson and Patterson spent the better part of the last two decades at Western Illinois and Iowa.
"There's no question when you spend 17 years working with one person you grow close," Hendrickson said.
"I just feel really honored and priviliged that I got to work that long with a first class man off the field and he was always a first class man on the field."
Hendrickson says while they'll never forget Patterson and what he did in his 10-plus seasons in Macomb, it's time to put their sole focus on Saturday's Missouri Valley Conference opener against Southern Illinois.
"(Patterson) wants my thoughts to be on the team, he wants my focus to be on the game plan and that's where it's been," Hendrickson explained.
"That's what he's asked me to do and that's really what he's asked the team to do, and that's what we'll do."
As far as the rest of Western Illinois and their thoughts on Patterson, WGEM requested numerous interviews with athletic and university officials only to be turned away.
The story apparently doesn't end there.
Multiple sources have confirmed to WGEM Sports that Patterson did not step away on his own but rather was relieved of his duties.
Our attempts to secure an interview with Patterson were unsuccessful.
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