AFCA Coach of the Year Award

The AFCA has been honoring its members for outstanding coaching performance since 1935, when Lynn Waldorf of Northwestern was named by the membership as the first AFCA Coach of the Year.

Award History: The Scripps-Howard newspaper chain conducted the balloting, published results and served as host at the Coach of the Year presentation ceremony from 1935 through 1959.

In 1960, the AFCA began handling the logistics of the voting. Eastman Kodak Corporation began sponsoring the AFCA Coach of the Year program, a relationship which continued through 1993. From 1996 to 1999, the award was sponsored by communications giant GTE.

From 1960 through 1982, two national winners were selected — one representing the University Division and one from the College Division. From 1983 to 2005, four national winners were chosen, a policy that accurately reflected the make-up of the AFCA’s four divisions. The AFCA started selecting five national winners representing all levels of the NCAA and the NAIA in 2006. 

The AFCA also started selecting 25 regional winners in 2006: five winners in each of the four NCAA divisions and the NAIA.

Following regional voting, five national winners — one from each division — are chosen. All schools with eligible AFCA head coaches are listed on the national ballot and members are not limited to voting for regional winners.

Members are required to vote for coaches within their region for the AFCA Regional Coach of the Year and coaches within their division when casting their AFCA National Coach of the Year ballot.

The regional winners are announced at the end of the regular season, while the national winners are presented at the AFCA Coach of the Year Dinner held during the AFCA Convention in January.

A total of 144 men representing 105 institutions have been honored by the AFCA as National Coach of the Year since the program was established in 1935.

Top Individuals: Larry Kehres of Mount Union is the only coach in AFCA history to win National Coach of the Year honors nine times. He has earned the award in Mount Union’s national championship seasons of 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2008. Joe Paterno of Penn State earned his fifth FBS Coach of the Year Award in 2005 (1968-72-82-86). Northwest Missouri State’s Mel Tjeerdsma (1998-99-2003-09) joins Bob Reade of Augustana (Ill.) College as the only four-time AFCA Coach of the Year winners. Reade earned the honor in 1983-84-85-86 in College Division II (Now Division III).  Sioux Falls’ Kalen DeBoer (2006-08-09) joins Appalachian State’s Jerry Moore (2005-06-07), Youngstown State and Ohio State coach Jim Tressel (1991-94-2003), Alabama’s Bear Bryant (1961-71-73) and North Alabama’s Bobby Wallace (1993-94-95) as the only three-time Coach of the Year winners. Moore, Wallace, Reade and Kehres are the only coaches to win the award in three or more consecutive seasons.

Top Schools: Mount Union is the only institution to have a representative win the AFCA National Coach of the Year Award nine times. Georgia Southern and Penn State are the only schools with five winners. Northwest Missouri State, Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, Augustana (Ill.), Grand Valley State, North Dakota State and Wittenberg are four-time winners.

Larry Kehres has won all nine awards for Mount Union. Paul Johnson (1999, 2000), Erk Russell (1986, 1989) and Tim Stowers (1990) are Georgia Southern’s honorees. Mel Tjeerdsma accounts for all of Northwest Missouri’s awards. Lloyd Carr (1997), Fritz Crisler (1947), Bennie Oosterbaan (1948) and Bo Schembechler (1969) are Michigan’s winners. Bill Edwards (1962, 1963) and Dave Maurer (1973, 1975), his successor, are responsible for Wittenberg being listed in the select group. North Dakota State’s national winners are Don Morton (1983), Earle Solomonson (1986) and Rocky Hager (1988, 1990). Gene Stallings earned Coach of the Year honors in 1992 to join three-time winner Bear Bryant as Alabama’s winners. Penn State’s Paterno and Augustana’s Reade account for all of their school’s awards. Ohio State’s Jim Tressel joins Carroll Widdoes (1944), Woody Hayes (1957) and Earle Bruce (1979) as one of the four Buckeye coaches to win the award. Chuck Martin (2005-2006) joins Brian Kelly (2002-2003) as the winners from Grand Valley State.

Kalen DeBoer’s third Coach of the Year award and Lance Leipold’s (2007-09) second put Sioux Falls and Wisconsin-Whitewater in exclusive company as two of six schools with three winners. Bob Berezowitz (2005) earned Whitewater’s first award. UWW & USF join Appalachian State (Jerry More, 2005-06-07), USC (John McKay, 1962, 1972; Pete Carroll, 2003), Furman (Dick Sheridan, 1985; Jimmy Satterfield, 1988; Bobby Johnson, 2001) and North Alabama (Bobby Wallace, 1993-94-95) in the triple winner category.

Two-Timers: Andy Talley and Lance Leipold join an exclusive group of two-time Coach the year winners. Chuck Martin, Brian Kelly, Jim Tressel, Paul Johnson, Bill Edwards, Dave Maurer, John McKay, Rocky Hager, Erk Russell, Mike Van Diest, Carroll (Mont.) (2003, 2007), Darrell Royal, Texas (1963, 1970), Harold “Tubby” Raymond, Delaware (1971-72), Joe Glenn, Northern Colorado (1996-97) and Jim Butterfield, Ithaca (1988, 1991) are the repeat winners.

Back-to-Back: Paul Johnson, Bill Edwards, Bob Reade, Tubby Raymond, Bobby Wallace, Joe Glenn, Larry Kehres, Mel Tjeerdsma, Brian Kelly, Jerry Moore, Chuck Martin and Kalen DeBoer are the only coaches to win national honors in consecutive years. No FBS coach has won the award in consecutive years. Kehres is the only coach to win three consecutive Coach of the Year awards twice. Tjeerdsma is the only coach to win two consecutive Coach of the Year awards twice.

Fit to be Tied: In 2003, Brian Kelly and Mike Van Diest became the fourth duo in the history of the AFCA National Coach of the Year award to finish in a tie for the honor and the first non-Football Bowl Subdivision coaches to share the award. Larry Coker and Ralph Friedgen finished in a tie for the honor in 2001. In 1964, Frank Broyles of Arkansas and Ara Parseghian of Notre Dame shared the award and in 1970, Charlie McClendon of Louisiana State and Darrell Royal of Texas were co-winners.

Like Father, Like Son: Jim Tressel and his father, Lee are the only father-son combination to win Coach of the Year honors in AFCA history. Lee Tressel was named College Division Coach of the Year in 1978 at Baldwin-Wallace.

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