Chattanooga, TN (Sports Network) -
McNeese State head coach Tommy Tate was named the 16th winner of the Eddie Robinson Award Thursday at the FCS College Football Awards, on the eve of the national championship game. The Robinson Award is presented annually to the top head coach in FCS.
Tate helped McNeese overcome a schedule that was ranked as the FCS's most difficult in 2002, leading the Cowboys to non-league wins over No. 10 Grambling State (52-20), No. 8 Youngstown State (28-13), No. 25 Western Kentucky (38-13), and FBS Louisiana-Monroe (24-19). In league play, MSU disposed of league foes like Sam Houston State (47-10), Stephen F. Austin (42-13), Southwest Texas (47-7) and Northwestern State (27-3). Following the latter win, McNeese was voted the No. 1 team in the country, the first time the program had reached the top spot since 1998. Tate and company defeated No. 17 Nicholls State on the final week of the regular season, securing their first outright Southland title and undefeated conference season since 1995. The Cowboys, who were awarded the No. 1 seed in the 2002 FCS playoffs, will play Western Kentucky for the FCS national championship on Friday night.
"It's overwhelming to receive such an award," said Tate. "As a young boy growing up in a small town in Louisiana, I was very familiar with coach Eddie Robinson's legacy and all of the values he stood for. The loyalty he gave to Grambling State, his players and coaches is a trait that is sometimes lost in today's times. I accept this award knowing that the credit goes to our loyal coaches and outstanding players."
The third-year head coach has been a member of the McNeese State football program for more than 25 years, beginning with his career as a defensive back at the school from 1975 to 1978. Tate joined the Cowboy coaching staff immediately upon his graduation in 1979, coaching the team?s secondary. The Pt. Barre, LA native rose steadily through the assistant ranks, staying on board despite five head coaching changes. After his long tenure as an assistant, Tate was promoted to head coach in 2000, guiding his team to back- to-back playoff appearances prior to the 2002 campaign.
Tate is the second coach from the Southland Conference to win the Eddie Robinson Award, and first since 1996. That year, Nicholls State?s Darrien Barbier was the recipient of the honor.
Tate received 23 first-place votes and 261 points from the panel of 109 FCS sports information directors and selected media. Following Tate in the voting was Wofford head coach Mike Ayers, who earned 14 first-place votes and 188 total points. Western Illinois? Don Patterson was third with 12 first-place votes and 176 total points.
The Eddie Robinson Award was established in 1987 by The Sports Network. The Award is named for legendary head coach Eddie Robinson, who retired in 1997 after 57 years at Grambling State University.