AFCA Announces 2015 Regional Coach of the Year Winners

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Hendrix’s Buck Buchanan highlight today’s announcement of the American Football Coaches Association’s 2015 Regional Coach of the Year winners.

The AFCA recognizes five regional Coach of the Year winners in each of the Association’s five divisions: Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III and NAIA. The winners are selected by Active members of the Association who vote for coaches in their respective regions and divisions.

The 2015 Regional Coach of the Year winners will be recognized at the AFCA Coach of the Year Dinner at the 2016 AFCA Convention in San Antonio, Texas. The dinner is scheduled for Tuesday, January 12.

In earning his second AFCA Regional Coach of the Year honor, Swinney has guided the Tigers to a 13-0 overall record, the Atlantic Coast Conference title and an appearance in the College Football Playoff. In his seven-plus seasons as a head coach, Swinney has an overall record of 74-26 and has guided Clemson to two ACC titles, and four ACC Atlantic Division titles.

In just his third year restarting the program at Hendrix, Buchanan led the Warriors to an 8-3 record, the program’s first conference title since 1926 and a berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs. The eight wins are a program record for Hendrix. Buchanan has an overall record of 17-14 in his first head coaching assignment. 

Award History: The AFCA 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.

The AFCA first recognized eight district winners in each of two divisions: university and college. In 1972, a ninth district was added in each division. In 1983, the award was changed to recognize regional winners instead of district winners, and 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 Division II Award was split into separate Division II and NAIA divisions, giving us the 25 winners we now recognize.

AFCA National Coach of the Year: The AFCA will announce its five 2015 National Coach of the Year winners at the 2016 AFCA Convention in San Antonio, Texas. All head coaches who were eligible for regional honors are eligible for national honors as well.

2015 AFCA Regional Coach of the Year Winners
Football Bowl Subdivision
Region 1: Dabo Swinney, Clemson University
Region 2: Jim McElwain, University of Florida*
Region 3: Kirk Ferentz, University of Iowa
Region 4: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State University
Region 5: David Shaw, Stanford University

Football Championship Subdivision
Region 1: Buddy Teevens, Dartmouth College
Region 2: Mike Houston, The Citadel
Region 3: John Grass, Jacksonville State University*
Region 4: Rick Chamberlin, University of Dayton
Region 5: Ed Lamb, Southern Utah University

Division II
Region 1: Monte Cater, Shepherd University
Region 2: Will Hall, University of West Georgia
Region 3: Lee Owens, Ashland University
Region 4: Dan Cocannouer, Southwestern Oklahoma State University
Region 5: Rob Smith, Humboldt State University

Division III
Region 1: E.J. Mills, Amherst College
Region 2: Jeff Pukszyn, Moravian College
Region 3: Buck Buchanan, Hendrix College
Region 4: Mike Swider, Wheaton College*
Region 5: Pat Cerroni, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Region 1: Drew Cronic, Reinhardt University
Region 2: Kevin Donley, University of Saint Francis (Ind.)
Region 3: Mike Grossner, Baker University
Region 4: Steve Ryan, Morningside College*
Region 5: Donnie Yantis, Arizona Christian University
*-2014 winner

Repeat Winners: Florida’s Jim McElwain, Jacksonville State’s John Grass, Wheaton’s Mike Swider and Morningside’s Steve Ryan are the repeat winners from 2014. Swider also won Regional honors in 2003, giving him three for his career, while Ryan added his fifth honor, with his other four awards coming in 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Multiple Winners: Other multiple winners in the 2015 class are Kirk Ferentz (third; 2002-09-15), David Shaw (third; 2011-13-15), Rob Smith (third; 1995-96-15), Dabo Swinney (second; 2011-15), Mike Gundy (second; 2011-15), Lee Owens (second; 2012-15), E.J. Mills (second; 2009-15), Pat Cerroni (second; 2012-15) and Kevin Donley (second; 2008-15).

First Time Winners: Twelve coaches earned their first AFCA Regional Coach of the Year Award in 2015: Dartmouth’s Buddy Teevens, The Citadel’s Mike Houston, Dayton’s Rick Chamberlin, Southern Utah’s Ed Lamb, Shepherd’s Monte Cater, West Georgia’s Will Hall, Southwestern Oklahoma State’s Dan Cocannouer, Moravian’s Jeff Pukszyn, Hendrix’s Buck Buchanan, Reinhardt’s Drew Cronic, Baker’s Mike Grossner and Arizona Christian’s Donnie Yantis.

Most Awards: Mount Union’s Larry Kehres (1986-90-92-93-96-97-99-2000-01-02-06-07-08-09-10-11-12) has the most district/regional honors in AFCA history, with 17. Penn State’s Joe Paterno (District 2: 1967-68-71-72-73-77-78-82; 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 1986-87-88-94-95; Division II, Region 1, 2000-01-05-06-08). Hale won his first three awards while at West Chester. Pete Fredenburg is in the fourth spot with eight Regional honors (2000-02-05-07-10-12-13-14). 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. Six coaches have won Regional honors six times: Vince Dooley, Georgia; Roy Kidd, Eastern Kentucky; John McKay, USC; Jerry Moore, Appalachian State; Darrell Royal, Texas; 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); 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); Alabama-9 (Bear Bryant-4, Bill Curry-1, Gene Stallings-2, Mike Shula-1, Nick Saban-1); Bloomsburg-9 (George Landis-1, Danny Hale-7, Paul Darragh-1); Ithaca-9 (Jim Butterfield-7, Mike Welch-2); 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); Mary Hardin-Baylor-8 (Pete Fredenburg-8); 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: Jim McElwain (Colorado State, 2014 & Florida, 2015) joined six other coaches who have earned AFCA Regional Coach of the Year honors at two schools in consecutive years: Fred Akers (Wyoming, 1976 & Texas 1977), Dick Sheridan (Furman, 1985 & North Carolina State, 1986), Dennis Franchione (Pittsburg State, 1989 & Texas State, 1990), Joe Tiller (Wyoming, 1996 & Purdue, 1997), Hal Mumme (Valdosta State, 1996 & Ken­tucky, 1997) and Kevin Sumlin (Houston, 2011 & Texas A&M, 2012).

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). Fourteen 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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