Nov. 15, 2007
Jack Siedlecki, the Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football at Yale, is among the 16 coaches announced Wednesday by The Sports Network as finalists for the Eddie Robinson Award.
The Robinson Award, named for the legendary former Grambling coach, has been given annually by The Sports Network to the FCS national coach of the year since 1987.
Siedlecki can lead Yale to its second straight Ivy League championship on Saturday with a victory over Harvard. This season has been a historic one for the Bulldogs, as they have gone 9-0 and climbed to No. 11 in the Sports Network Top 25. Siedlecki is 111-66-2 overall as a head coach and 64-44 since replacing legendary Yale coach Carmen Cozza in 1997. The Bulldogs, which have won 17 of their past 18 games, can win their third Ivy League championship under Siedlecki on Saturday.
Among the other Robinson Award candidates are Appalachian State's Jerry Moore, head coach of the two-time defending national champions, Mark Farley, the coach of top-ranked and undefeated Northern Iowa, Pete Adrian of Norfolk State, Craig Bohl of North Dakota State, Rod Broadway of Grambling, Dave Clawson of Richmond, Dave Cohen of Hofstra, Henry Frazier of Prairie View, Chris Hatcher of Georgia Southern, Danny Hope of Eastern Kentucky, Al Lavan of Delaware State, Tom Masella of Fordham, Jack Siedlecki of Yale, Matt Viator of McNeese State, and Paul Wulff of Eastern Washington.
No coach has ever won the Robinson Award twice.
Farley has guided Northern Iowa to its first No. 1 ranking since 1992 and with a victory against winless Southern Utah on Saturday, the Panthers will have their first undefeated regular season since 1960. The current 10-game winning streak for UNI, the champion of the Gateway Conference, is its longest since an 11-game string in 1985.
Moore, who has Appalachian State in contention for an unprecedented third consecutive national championship, was last year's winner. No coach has ever repeated as the winner of the Robinson Award.
Another former winner on this year's ballot, which will go out to voters next Sunday for voting that will finish on November 21, is Elon's Pete Lembo.
Lembo won the Robinson Award in 2001, when he was in his first year as the head coach at Lehigh. This season, in just his second year at Elon, Lembo has improved the Phoenix from a losing program to one that came within a game of winning the automatic bid in the competitive Southern Conference.
This year's winner will be announced on Thursday night, December 13 at the Sports Network's annual awards banquet to be held at the Marriott Hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The winners of the Walter Payton Award and the Buck Buchanan Award, along with the Sports Network Cup, will also be announced. The Payton and Buchanan awards go to the top players in FCS and the Sports Network Cup is handed out to the top Mid-Major team.
Here are biographies of the other Eddie Robinson Award candidates: Pete Adrian, Norfolk State - This veteran coach has built this once-doormat MEAC tea, into a potential playoff participant in just three years, while also making major strides with the program academically. The Spartans had never had a winning season since moving from Division II to FCS until this year, when they have gone 7-3 and advanced to the MEAC championship game, losing 28-21 in overtime last Saturday to Delaware State. Adrian is a 38-year coaching veteran, whose experience includes a stint as the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Enforcers of the XFL in 2001.
Rod Broadway, Grambling - In his first year at Grambling, Broadway has restored Tiger fortunes and taken the team to a 8-2 record and a berth in the SWAC championship game on December 15 in Birmingham, Ala. Before coming to Grambling, Broadway was instrumental in building North Carolina Central's program into a Division II powerhouse and helped facilitate NCCU's jump to Division I this season during his four years as coach. A veteran of 28 years as a coach, Broadway led NCCU to back-to-back CIAA titles for the first time since 1953-54 and last year's No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division II Southeast Region. North Carolina Central was also ranked first nationally in defense in 2006. After a 4-6 record in Broadway's first year, the Eagles won eight or more games in each of the next three seasons.
Craig Bohl, North Dakota State - Bohl has guided the Bison through their five- year transition from Division II to Division I and has established NDSU as a force to be reckoned with when the program is eligible for the playoffs beginning next year. The Bison were 10-1 last season and won the Great West Conference championship. This season, North Dakota State is ranked No. 2 in the Sports Network Top-25 and can win another Great West title, as well as cap off a perfect 11-0 season, with a victory over South Dakota State. Bohl is 43-11 in five years at NDSU. Dave Clawson, Richmond - Clawson has built a reputation for making big marks on teams in a short amount of time. He earned notice for his work as an offensive coordinator at Lehigh and Villanova and took a downtrodden Fordham program to the 2002 Patriot League championships and three consecutive winning seasons. In his third year at Richmond, Clawson has the Spiders in contention for the CAA championship and a playoff berth with an 8-2 record. Richmond will make its second playoff appearance in three years and claim a share of the CAA with a win over William & Mary on Saturday. Clawson is 26-19 at Richmond and 55-48 for his career.
Dave Cohen, Hofstra - In just his second year as a head coach, Cohen has overseen one of the biggest improvements in the country this season, as the Pride has from 2-9 last year to 7-3 in 2007. The Pride will likely earn an NCAA playoff berth with a win over Massachusetts on Saturday in their final regular-season game. Cohen served as the defensive coordinator at Delaware before becoming a head coach and helped the Blue Hens win the 2003 national championship. His Delaware defense allowed only 23 points in four playoff games that year and shut out Colgate in the title game.
Mark Farley, Northern Iowa - A one-time walk-on from the small Iowa town of Waukon who worked his way to an All-American at Northern Iowa as an inside linebacker, Farley has spent 23 of his 27-year coaching career with the Panthers, including the past seven as the head coach. Just two years removed from taking UNI to the national title game, Farley has coached the Panthers to a perfect record in 2007. He is 50-20 as a head coach and has taken UNI to the playoffs four times in seven seasons. The Panthers have shared or won the Gateway title four times during his tenure as head coach.
Henry Frazier, Prairie View - Frazier has accomplished what many thought was next to impossible by guiding Prairie View to a winning record, its first since 1976. The Panthers are 6-3 heading into a season-closing game against Alabama A&M on Saturday. In his fourth year at Prairie View, Frazier has taken a program that was among the nation's worst before he arrived and gradually built it into a winner, going 3-8, 5-6 and 3-8 in three seasons before breaking through this year. The Panthers had won just nine games in the 13 seasons before Frazier arrived. A star quarterback at Bowie State (18-3-1 career record as a starter), Frazier returned to his alma mater in 1999 and rebuilt that school's fortunes before moving to Prairie View. He put together three successive winning seasons from 2001-2003 for BSU, including a 2002 CIAA championship, and left as the winningest coach in school history with 26 victories.
Chris Hatcher, Georgia Southern - Hatcher came into a program that was left in shambles by previous coach Brian VanGorder and rebuilt the Eagles into a team that came within a missed field goal of winning the Southern Conference's automatic berth in the playoffs. After last year's school-worst 3-8 record, Hatcher has helped the Eagles go 7-3 with the chance to win a playoff berth with a victory over Colorado State on Saturday. Just 34 years old, Hatcher won the 2004 Division II national championship at his alma mater, Valdosta State, where he learned under coach Hal Mumme. VSU was the national runner-up in 2002. Hatcher went 76-12 in seven years at Valdosta State.
Danny Hope, Eastern Kentucky - In his fifth year at Eastern Kentucky, Hope has finally put this former FCS powerhouse back into prominence with an Ohio Valley Conference championship. The Colonels are 8-2 heading into their final regular-season game and have clinched their first berth in the playoffs since 1997. Hope was an starter on the offensive line for the EKU squad that won the 1979 I-AA national championship for legendary coach Roy Kidd and was a captain on the 1980 Colonel team that finished as national runner-up. Hope was the assistant head coach at Louisville before returning to EKU and has an overall coaching record of 26-21.
Al Lavan, Delaware State - In four years, Lavan has taken a program that had one winning season in the eight years prior to his arrival and turned the Hornets into MEAC champions. The Hornets are 9-1 heading into the final game of the regular season and have earned their first berth in the FCS playoffs. Lavan is 28-14 overall and 24-8 since 2005. He has Delaware State ranked No. 10 in the country for the first time since 1987. Lavan served as the interim head coach at Eastern Michigan before coming to DSU. His 35-year coaching resume includes nine years as a Dallas Cowboys assistant for Tom Landry and a stint with the 1990 San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl champions.
Pete Lembo, Elon - After compiling a 44-14 record in five years at Lehigh, Lembo moved into a rebuilding program at Elon last year and took the Phoenix to a 5-6 record, its best season since 2000. Picked to finish seventh in the Southern Conference this year, Lembo put his team in position for the automatic bid in the Southern Conference until a loss last week at The Citadel. His overall record is now 55-24. Lembo led Lehigh to two Patriot League titles and NCAA playoff berths. His 2001 team was undefeated in the regular season and finished ranked fifth nationally after advancing to the FCS quarterfinals.
Tom Masella, Fordham - In just his second season at Fordham, Masella has helped the Rams recapture a bit of their history in the school's 125th year of football. After finishing 3-8 last season, Masella has guided Fordham to a Patriot League championship, the league's automatic bid to the playoffs and an 8-2 record. Masella led a similar turnaround at Central Connecticut State, helping the Blue Devils to 8-2 and 7-4 records on the way to back-to-back Northeast Conference championships in 2004-05. Masella has also served as a head coach at Fairfield and Boston University. He was the defensive coordinator at BU when the Terriers went 12-1 in 1993 and head coach Dan Allen was named the Robinson Award winner.
Jerry Moore, Appalachian State - Moore has won back-to-back American Football Coaches Association national coach of the year honors for guiding his 2005 and 2006 Appalachian State teams to national championships. With that target on the shirts of his team, Moore has led the 2007 Mountaineers to an 8-2 record and an historic 34-32 victory over Michigan, the first win by an FCS team over a nationally-ranked FBS opponent. In his 19th year at ASU, Moore is 162-70. In 26 years as a head coach at North Texas, Texas Tech and ASU, he is 189-118-2. If ASU beats Chattanooga on Saturday, it will give Moore a share of his sixth Southern Conference title and his third straight.
Matt Viator, McNeese State - Viator moved from offensive coordinator to interim head coach last season when Tommy Tate was dismissed with a 1-3 record. Viator proceeded to take the Cowboys to the playoffs and finished with a 6-2 record. This year with Viator as the permanent head coach, McNeese State has been even better, going 10-0 to win a share of the Southland Conference title and a berth in the playoffs. A McNeese State alumnus, Viator came back to the Cowboys in 1999 as linebackers coach and became the offensive coordinator a year later.
Paul Wulff, Eastern Washington - Coming off a disastrous 3-8 campaign in 2006, there wasn't much expected of Eastern Washington. But Wulff has taken the Eagles to a 7-3 record, and they will likely earn an at-large playoff bid with a victory on Saturday against Weber State. A veteran of both the NFL and the World Football League as a center, Wulff has spent his entire coaching career at EWU since retiring as a player in 1992. He became the head coach in 2000 and has gone 51-39 in eight years.
Previous Eddie Robinson Award Winners 2006: Jerry Moore, Appalachian State; 2005: Sean McDonnell, New Hampshire; 2004: Jerry Kill, Southern Illinois; 2003: Mike Ayers, Wofford; 2002: Tommy Tate, McNeese State; 2001: Pete Lembo, Lehigh; 2000: Joe Glenn, Montana; 1999: Mickey Matthews, James Madison; 1998: Paul Johnson, Georgia Southern; 1997: Andy Talley, Villanova; 1996: Darren Barbier, Nicholls State; 1995: Houston Nutt, Murray State; 1994: Jim Tressel, Youngstown State; 1993: Dan Allen, Boston University; 1992: Charlie Taaffe, The Citadel; 1991: Chris Ault, Nevada; 1990: Gene McDowell, U-C-F; 1989: Erk Russell, Georgia Southern; 1988: Bill Russo, Lafayette; 1987: Mark Duffner, Holy Cross.
Report from The Sports Network