Updated: January 17, 2014 at 9:56 pm
A massive loss.
Charlton Warren's departure from the Air Force football coaching staff leaves a chasm. He was the program's best recruiter. He could spot hidden talent, and he could talk persuasively to teens skeptical about life as a cadet. He's a prime reason the Falcons traveled to six straight bowl games before this season's catastrophic collapse.
Recruiting is crucial as coach Troy Calhoun rebuilds from the ruins of last season, and he must do this building without his best salesman. Warren's move to Nebraska, where he will coach the defensive secondary, leaves a gaping hole in the Falcons future. Anyone who applauds Warren's departure just displays her or his ignorance of college football.
And yet ...
It was time for Warren to go. After delivering superb work as an assistant in charge of defensive backs from 2005 to 2011, he failed as a defensive coordinator over the past two seasons. There's no way to escape this truth. In Warren's two seasons as leader of the defense, the Falcons allowed more than 30 points 13 times and more than 40 points 10 times, including eight this season.
I'm optimistic about Warren's future. He will craft a violent, stingy secondary out there on the prairie. His 2009 Air Force's secondary collected 20 interceptions and finished fifth in the nation in pass defense. The man can coach.
Warren called Friday from San Diego. He officially joined the Nebraska staff earlier in the day, but he already was recruiting. He planned to spend the day in Southern California, doing his work as a football salesman, and return to Lincoln a little after sundown.
He leaves a big chunk of his heart at the Air Force Academy. He's a 1999 AFA grad who played on consecutive 10-win teams in 1997 and 1998. He leaves with no bitterness.
"I'll be in Nebraska and I'm embracing everything about that, but Air Force will always be near and dear in my heart," Warren said. "It's given me more than I can ever give back to it. I always will be a Falcon. There is no doubt."
I don't doubt his words. Warren even plans to take an informal role in finishing his Air Force recruiting work. He long specialized in finding players in Georgia. He declined to give a specific number of those Georgia recruits, but the recent past suggests he hoped to persuade about a dozen players to compete for the Falcons.
He will continue, on a limited basis and with Nebraska coach Bo Pelini's blessing, his sales work with those Air Force recruits. It should be said Nebraska recruits an entirely different brand of high school athlete than Air Force. The Huskers are not interested in any of Air Force's Georgia prospects.
"I formed a bond with those kids," Warren said, "and I'll be as involved as I can be to still get those kids to Air Force."
When last season ended, Calhoun declined to endorse Warren as defensive coordinator for the 2014 season. Warren said Calhoun's words had nothing to do with his decision to leave. Neither did the recent hiring of former Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brian Knorr.
This decision, Warren insisted, was all about the opportunity at Nebraska.
"There were other opportunities over the years, but Air Force being dear to me, I was never truly interested, but when you talk about big time college football and the top five programs, I think Nebraska has to be on your mind," Warren said. "I'd have to be a fool to not go listen to the offer. I really liked what I saw."
When pondering his decision, Warren thought often about this question:
"Is it time for a change?"
He answered yes.
He leaves behind a program severely lacking in talent. The Falcons struggled with, and failed to overcome, a depressingly long list of troubles this season, but the most momentous trouble was a lack of legitimate Division I players. The problem, looking back and looking forward, is talent.
Charlton Warren was an expert at bringing legit players to the Falcon Stadium. He's departed to the flatlands.
And it's a massive loss.