AFCA Regional Coach of the Year Award

The AFCA first began recognizing district coaches of the year following the 1960 season. The awards were established the same year Eastman Kodak agreed to sponsor the AFCA Coach of the Year Award. Prior to 1960, the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain had sponsored the program, which recognized one national Coach of the Year. From 1996-1999, the award was sponsored by GTE.

Beginning in 1960, the AFCA recognized eight district winners in each of two divisions — University and College. In 1972, a ninth district was added in each division.

The structure of the Coach of the Year Award was altered in 1983. One major change involved selecting regional winners instead of district winners. The other change was limiting coaches to voting in their own divisions. The number of divisions was increased from two to four and five regional winners were selected in each division. This resulted in a more equitable selection process and better represented the make-up of the membership. At the same time, the new system increased the number of honorees from 18 to 20.

In 2006, the AFCA started selecting Regional winners in the NAIA, increasing the number of honorees to 25.

Starting in 2016, the Regional winners in each division will become the finalists for AFCA National Coach of the Year.

The Award: The winners are selected by Active members of the Association who vote for coaches in their respective regions and divisions. Each coach receives a medallion in recognition of the honor. Medallions for FBS and FCS winners are presented at the American Football Coaches Awards, while the Division II, Division III and NAIA winners are presented at the Victory Luncheon during the AFCA Convention.

Most Awards: Mount Union’s Larry Kehres (1986, 1990, 1992-93, 1996-97, 1999-02, 2006-12) has the most district/regional honors in AFCA history, with 17. Penn State’s Joe Paterno (District 2: 1967-68, 1971-73, 1977-78, 1982; Region 1: 1985; Region 3: 1994, 2005) is second with 11 District/Regional Coach of the Year honors. Following Kehres and Paterno is Bloomsburg’s Danny Hale with 10 awards (College Division I, Region 1 1986-88, 1994-95; Division II, Region 1, 2000-01, 2005-06, 2008). Hale won his first three awards while at West Chester. Pete Fredenburg is in the fourth spot with nine Regional honors (2000, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012-14, 2016). Seven coaches have won the award seven times: Tubby Ray­mond, Delaware; Jim Butterfield, Ithaca; Bo Schem­bechler, Miami (Ohio), Michigan; Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne, Nebraska; Mel Tjeerdsma, Northwest Missouri State and Carmen Cozza, Yale. Seven coaches have won Regional honors six times: Vince Dooley, Georgia; Roy Kidd, Eastern Kentucky; John McKay, USC; Jerry Moore, Appalachian State; Darrell Royal, Texas; Steve Ryan, Morningside; and Mike Van Diest, Carroll (Mont.).

Most Winners by School: Mount Union-18 (Ken Wable-1, Larry Kehres-17); Nebraska-15 (Bob Devaney-7, Tom Osborne-7, Frank Solich-1); North Dakota State-12 (Darrell Mudra-1, Ron Erhardt-4, Jim Wacker-1, Don Morton-3, Earle Solo­monson-1, Craig Bohl-2); Penn State-12 (Rip Engle-1, Joe Paterno-11); Texas-11 (Darrell Royal-6, Fred Akers-2, David McWil­liams-1, Mack Brown-2); Alabama-10 (Bear Bryant-4, Bill Curry-1, Gene Stallings-2, Mike Shula-1, Nick Saban-2); USC-10 (John McKay-6, John Robinson-2, Pete Carroll-2); Wittenberg-10 (Bill Edwards-3, Dave Maurer-4, Ron Murphy-1, Joe Fincham-2); Bloomsburg-9 (George Landis-1, Danny Hale-7, Paul Darragh-1); Ithaca-9 (Jim Butterfield-7, Mike Welch-2); Mary Hardin-Baylor-9 (Pete Fredenburg-9); Michi­gan-9 (Bump Elliott-2, Bo Schem­bechler-6, Lloyd Carr-1); New Hampshire-9 (Clarence Boston-1, Jim Root-1, Bill Bowes-3, Sean McDonnell-4); Arkansas-8 (Frank Broyles-4, Lou Holtz-1, Ken Hatfield-1, Houston Nutt-2); Northwest Missouri State-8 (Mel Tjeerdsma-7, Adam Dorrel-1); Ohio State-8 (Woody Hayes-4, Earle Bruce-1, John Cooper-3); Oklahoma-8 (Chuck Fairbanks-3, Barry Switzer-2, Bob Stoops-3); Texas A&M-Kingsville-8 (Gil Steinke-2, Ron Harms-5, Bo Atterberry-1); Yale-8 (Jordan Olivar-1, Carmen Cozza-7).

Two Consecutive Years, Two Schools: Mike Houston (The Citadel, 2015 & James Madison, 2016) joined seven other coaches who have earned AFCA Regional Coach of the Year honors at two schools in consecutive years: Fred Akers (Wyoming, 1976 & Texas 1977), Dennis Franchione (Pittsburg State, 1989 & Texas State, 1990), Jim McElwain (Colorado State, 2014 & Florida, 2015), Hal Mumme (Valdosta State, 1996 & Ken­tucky, 1997), Dick Sheridan (Furman, 1985 & North Carolina State, 1986), Kevin Sumlin (Houston, 2011 & Texas A&M, 2012) and Joe Tiller (Wyoming, 1996 & Purdue, 1997).

Most Schools: South Carolina’s Lou Holtz is the only coach to earn AFCA Regional Coach of the Year honors at four different schools. Holtz earned the honor at North Carolina State (1972), Arkansas (1979), Notre Dame (1988) and South Carolina (2000). Brian Kelly (Grand Valley State, Cincinnati, Notre Dame) became the seventh coach to win district or regional honors at three different schools in 2012. He joins Jerry Claiborne (Virginia Tech, Maryland, Kentucky), Darrell Mudra (North Dakota State, Western Illinois, Northern Iowa), Houston Nutt (Mississippi, Arkansas, Murray State), Mike Price (UTEP, Washington State, Weber State), Jim Sweeney (Montana State, Washington State, Fresno State) and Jim Wacker (North Dakota State, Texas State, TCU) on that list.

Consecutive Years: Mount Union’s Larry Kehres is the only coach to win district/regional honors in seven consecutive years, winning in Division III from 2006-12. Northwest Missouri State’s Mel Tjeerdsma and Nebraska’s Bob Devaney are the only coaches to win district/regional honors in five consecutive years. Tjeerdsma earned the honor in Division II from 1996-2000. Devaney earned the honor in the AFCA’s old University Division (1962-66). Carroll’s Mike Van Diest joins Trinity’s (Texas) Steve Mohr, North Dakota State’s Ron Erhardt and Kehres as the only men to win the award four years in a row. Van Diest earned the honor in NAIA from 2007-10, while Kehres won his four in a row from 1999-2002 in Division III. Erhardt earned district honors in the AFCA’s old College Division (1967-68-69-70) while Mohr earned the honor in Division III (1996-97-98-99). Sixteen coaches have earned district or regional honors three years in a row. Ithaca’s Jim Butterfield (1978-79-80 and 1984-85-86) earned the award in three consecutive years on two different occasions.

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