The American Football Coaches Association is proud to announce its 2017 Assistant Coach of the Year winners. One assistant coach from the five divisions of college football has been selected for their dedication to their teams and communities. A total of 56 nominees from Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III and NAIA were nominated in 2017.

Each year, staff representatives from NCAA and NAIA football-playing schools are asked to nominate an assistant for consideration. From those nominations, the winners are selected by the AFCA Public Relations Committee.

The Assistant Coach of the Year award was first presented in 1997 and was created to honor assistant coaches who excel in community service, commitment to the student-athlete, on-field coaching success and AFCA professional organization involvement. 

The 2017 honorees are as follows:

FBS–Van Malone, Defensive Coordinator, SMU

FCS–Brian Rock, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks, College of the Holy Cross

Division II–Taylor Breitzman, Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

Division III–Oscar Rodriguez, Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Secondary, University of La Verne

NAIA–Billy Hickman, Offensive Coordinator, Tabor College

“Once again, five outstanding assistant coaches have been selected for their dedication, not only to their teams, but to their communities,” said Executive Director Todd Berry. “Oftentimes, the head coach receives much of the credit for his team’s success, but any head coach is only as good as his assistants. Much of an assistant coach’s work is done behind the scenes. It is our pleasure to bring it to the forefront.”

The criteria for the award is not limited to on-field coaching ability or the success of the team and the players who these assistant coaches work with. Service to the community through charitable work and other volunteer activities, participation in AFCA activities and events, participation in other professional organizations and impact on student-athletes are all taken into account in the selection process.

Winners of the Assistant Coach of the Year Award will receive a plaque to commemorate their recognition. They will be honored at the AFCA Honors Luncheon, Monday, January 8, during the 2018 AFCA Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.


AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year Finalists for 2017

Football Bowl Subdivision

Jeff Faris, Duke

Van Malone, SMU

Brent Venables, Clemson


Football Championship Subdivision

Randy Hedberg, North Dakota State

Ernest T. Jones, Morgan State

Brian Rock, Holy Cross


Division II

Taylor Breitzman, South Dakota Mines

John Cryder, Carson-Newman

Charlie Flohr, Northwest Missouri State


Division III

Deon Henry, Rowan

George Penree, St. Scholastica

Oscar Rodriguez, La Verne



Tim Brooks, St. Mary

Billy Hickman, Tabor

Jared Hottle, Dakota State


Assistant Coach of the Year Notes

104 assistant coaches from 81 different schools have been honored by the AFCA since the inception of the award in 1997 ... Bethel (Minn.) joins Campbellsville, Carson-Newman and Hampton as schools with three winners each ... Tabor joins Air Force, Benedictine (Kan.), Carroll (Mont.), Central (Iowa), Clemson, Morningside, Mount Union, Northwest Missouri State, Wabash, Washington (Mo.) and Winona State with two winners each.


The Winners

Football Bowl Subdivision

Van Malone, Defensive Coordinator, SMU: Malone is in his 15th year as a collegiate coach with the last three at SMU ... He is a dedicated member of the AFCA, serving as an ex officio member of the Board of Trustees as chairman of the AFCA Minority Issues Committee ... Malone has served on several other AFCA committees including the Program Committee, Meeting Room Committee and Assistant Coaches Committee ... He volunteers his time with The Tempo Foundation, which was created by SMU head coach Chad Morris and his wife Paula. The foundation puts on a ladies clinic with all proceeds going directly to raising awareness for breast cancer and domestic abuse ... Malone cares about his football players and stresses the importance for them to prepare for life after football ... As defensive coordinator at SMU, he has produced one of the best defenses in the country in creating turnovers.


Football Championship Subdivision

Brian Rock, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Holy Cross: Rock has spent 33 years coaching college football, with the last three at Holy Cross ... An active member of the AFCA, Rock has served on the Assistant Coaches Committee for almost 15 years ... He volunteers his time with the “Be the Match” Bone Marrow Testing Drive, American Red Cross Blood Donor Drive, “Holy Cross Cares” Day and the “Working for Worcester” Day ... Rock is a positive role model to his players and helps develop great young men on and off the football field ... Considered a great inovater with lots of creativity, Rock’s offenses have set numerous school records at Holy Cross and have produced naitonally-ranked offenses in his other coaching stops at Kent State, Western Michigan and Purdue.


Division II

Taylor Breitzman, Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach, South Dakota Mines: Breitzman has been coaching college football for six years, with the last three at South Dakota Mines ... He is very active in giving back to his school and community ... Breitzman designed the obstacle course for the annual “Duck Race” in Rapid City, S.D., in conjunction with the Children’s Miracle Network and serves as an advisor for the South Dakota Mines Lions Club, helping students reach their philanthropy goals ... Helped the Mines athletic department raise $45,000 in last year’s Phone-a-Thon ... Breitzman is active with the AFCA, serving on the Division II Assistant Coaches Committee ... He spends his own time and personal resources to secure professional development opportunities ... Breitzman has taken an active role of growing the game of football outside the United States by being a coach in the European League and helping other coaches secure jobs at the international level ... He takes an integral part in the South Dakota Mines Cap ‘n Gown program of academic monitoring, guiding the football program to have a higher average GPA than the general male student body on campus ... Breitzman’s defenses continue to get better each year under his watch, moving from ninth to eighth in total defense from 2016 to 2017 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference ... In his first season at South Dakota Mines, his defense led the Great Northwest Athletic Conference in sacks.


Division III

Oscar Rodriguez, Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Secondary Coach, La Verne: Rodriguez has spent 12 years coaching college football, from the Junior College level to Division II, and is in his third season at La Verne ... After having beat cancer two times, Rodriguez founded and is CEO of Coaches Against Cancer (CAC) Foundation ... The CAC Foundation puts on a golf tournament and hosts a silent action each year, with the proceeds going to cancer patients in need of financial assistance ... The CAC Foundation also puts on a free football clinic, run by Rodriguez, where he brings in 20 to 30 coaches and pays for their lodging and meals so they can volunteer their time for the foundation ... He has also been a Big Brother/Big Sister volunteer at almost every coaching stop he has made and is currently a First Generation Mentor at La Verne ... Rodriguez is also a public and motivational speaker, talking on topics ranging from football to his Hispanic background to beating cancer ... He has coached eight NFL players in his career and has helped guide every college team he has coached to the post-season (2007 NCAA Division II playoffs at Washburn; 2008 NAIA Playoffs at Baker; 2010 Salt City Bowl Champions at Hutchinson Community College; 2012 Kanza Bowl Champions at Emporia State; 2013 Football Capital of Kansas Bowl at Garden City Community College and 2015 NCAA Division III playoffs at La Verne).



Billy Hickman, Offensive Coordinator, Tabor: Hickman has spent 10 years coaching college football with the last eight at Tabor ... He is very active in volunteer work such as helping a local hospital move locations, aiding local residents with moving and yard clean-up, organizing workers for the local Special Olympics, volunteering for the Tabor Phone-A-Thon, organizing players to read to students at Marion and Hillsboro Elementary Schools and helping Marion Elementary build a new playground ... Hickman started the Fellowship of Christian Athletes program at Tabor and has volunteered for six USA Football Regional Development camps ... He has helped produce two Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Players of the Year and three AFCA All-Americans ... Hickman’s offense has set 39 individual and school records and Tabor has been in the NAIA Top 10 in rushing for five straight seasons.