2014, Sean McDonnell, New Hampshire
Other top programs had come to be associated with dominance on the FCS level, but New Hampshire, under McDonnell, the 2014 Eddie Robinson Award winner, had been the most consistent of the national powers. In 2014, the Wildcats made the national playoffs for an 11th straight season and increased its run in the national Top 25 to 154 straight polls. To further accentuate the job McDonnell did in keeping UNH at an elite level, the Wildcats overcame injuries to their No. 1 quarterback and running back as well as at some other positions. Yet after losing to FBS member Toledo to open the season, they went on to win their final 10 regular-season games, including all eight in CAA Football to win the conference title, and reach the No. 1 ranking for the first time since 2006. They also earned the top seed for the 24-team FCS playoffs. In claiming the Robinson Award as the national coach of the year, McDonnell became the third two-time winner after former James Madison coach Mickey Matthews and former North Dakota State coach Craig Bohl. McDonnell, a 1978 UNH graduate, also won in 2005. He received 46 of 160 first-place votes and 399 points in the national voting, with Coastal Carolina's Joe Moglia finishing second and Harvard's Tim Murphy third among the 21 finalists.
2013, Craig Bohl, North Dakota State
Bohl already knew plenty about back-to-back wins on a national scale - FCS championships in 2011 and '12 - when he captured his second straight Eddie Robinson Award. That feat had never been accomplished before in the 27-year history of the award. Former James Madison coach Mickey Matthews was the first two-time recipient (1999 and 2008) of the Robinson Award. Bohl collected 42 first-place votes and 418 points from a national panel of 147 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries. Eastern Illinois' Dino Babers finished second in the voting with 370 points, while Maine's Jack Cosgrove was third with 260 points. Under Bohl, North Dakota State never gave up its No. 1 ranking during the regular season. The Bison opened the season by defeating Big 12 champion Kansas State on the road and went on to post an 11-0 mark to enjoy their first unbeaten regular season since 1990. Behind a dominant defense, an efficient, ball-control offense and strong special teams, the Bison won their third consecutive Missouri Valley Football Conference title. They have added four more playoff wins to capture a third straight FCS championship game and finish 15-0. After the season, Bohl left NDSU to take the coaching reins at the University of Wyoming.
2012, Craig Bohl, North Dakota State
Bohl was named the 26th recipient of the Eddie Robinson Award after guiding the
Bison to another spectacular season. Bohl accomplished in the 2011 season what
he sets out to do every year as North Dakota State's head football coach - win
the FCS national championship. The 2012 season furthered the bigger picture for
the program as it established itself as a perennial FCS power. The Bison won a
second straight Missouri Valley Football Conference championship and was ranked
No. 1 in the FCS in nine of the 12 weeks of the regular season. They swept four
playoff games to finish 14-1 and win a second straight national championship
game. In the Robinson voting, Bohl received 42 of the 145 and 364 points from a
national panel of sports information and media relations directors,
broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries. Villanova's Andy Talley, who
presented Bohl with the Robinson Award at the national awards banquet, finished
second with 280 points, and Eastern Illinois first-year coach Dino Babers was
third with 229 points. Bohl was named the head coach at the University of
Wyoming on Dec. 8, 2013.
2011, Rob Ambrose, Towson
The Eddie Robinson Award was awarded for the 25th time in 2011, and, oh, did
its recipient have a special season to match the silver anniversary. Before the
campaign, Towson was picked to finish last in CAA Football, the result of a
3-29 conference record from 2007-2010. Ambrose, however, turned around the
Tigers, leading them to a 9-2 regular-season mark and the outright CAA title.
He received 59 of the 132 first-place votes and 453 points, edging out Sam
Houston State's Willie Fritz by 29 points. Ambrose led Towson to a second-round
FCS playoff game, where they fell to Lehigh, 40-38. He coached the winner of
the inaugural Jerry Rice Award, standout freshman running back Terrance West.
2010, Tony Samuel, Southeast Missouri State
-- Samuel was named the 24nd winner of the Eddie Robinson Award.
Southeast Missouri State had a 2-9 record in 2009 and tied for seventh in the
Ohio Valley Conference's 2010 preseason poll. Behind Samuel's lead, the
Redhawks went 9-2 during the regular season, won the school's first OVC
championship and gained their first-ever playoff bid. They lost at Eastern
Washington in the second round.
The Redhawks had 10 players named to the All-OVC team. A school-record eight
players were named to the first team, running back Henry Harris was chosen as
the OVC's offensive player of the year and Samuel won the conference's coach
of the year award. He spent eight years at SEMO, compiling a 31-60 record.
2009, Henry Frazier III, Prairie View A&M
-- Frazier became the first coach of a
Southwestern Athletic Conference team, or a Historically Black College or
University (HBCU), to win the Eddie Robinson Award, which is presented
the top coach in FCS. Robinson, the legendary Grambling State coach, spent
much of his career in the SWAC. Taking over a program best known for losing an
NCAA-record 80 consecutive games from 1989-98, Frazier led the Panthers to a
perfect 7-0 conference mark, the SWAC West Division title and their first-ever
berth in the SWAC championship game since the title contest was introduced in
1999. Frazier spent seven seasons at Prairie View, compiling an impressive
slate, which included a 32-9 mark from 2007-10. Prairie View completed its
2009 season with a thrilling, 30-24 SWAC title game victory over Alabama A&M.
The Panthers hadn't won a SWAC championship since 1964, and 2009 marked the
team's second consecutive 9-1 season. In addition, the 2010 season marked the
first time the Panthers had four consecutive winning years since
legendary PVAM coach W.J. Nicks led nine straight from 1957-65. Frazier
resigned as head coach in 2010 to take the head coaching position at North
Carolina Central, where he compiled an 8-14 record over two seasons. He was
replaced as the Eagles' head coach on Aug. 22, 2013.
2008, Mickey Matthews, James Madison
-- Matthews was named the 22nd winner of the Eddie
Matthews became the first two-time winner of the Robinson Award. He also won
the award in 1999, his first season at James Madison.
Matthews' JMU squad finished 10-1 in the regular season and was ranked No. 1
for the final eight weeks of the regular season in The Sports Network FCS
Top 25 poll. The Dukes also won the championship of the Colonial Athletic
Association and were seeded No. 1 in the FCS playoffs. It marked the best
regular-season record in school history.
He led the Dukes to the 2004 national championship with a 13-2 mark and was also the defensive architect of the great Jim Donnan-coached Marshall teams that were national finalists from 1991-93 and in 1995, and won the 1992 national championship.
Matthews received 26 first-place votes out of the 102 ballots that were cast
by a panel of sports information directors and selected media who regularly
cover FCS games. He edged Rich Ellerson of Cal Poly by 45 points, with Ron
McBride of Weber State finishing third.
Matthews was replaced after the 2013 season. In 15 years at the helm of JMU, Matthews became the winningest coach in school history, with a 109-71 record.
2007, Mark Farley, Northern Iowa
-- Farley was named the 21st winner of the Eddie Robinson Award.
The Panthers were 11-0 in the regular season and held the No. 1 ranking in The
Sports Network FCS Top 25 poll for six weeks. UNI was ranked ninth in the
preseason, and steadily rose before taking the top spot in the poll on Oct. 15.
Farley became the second Missouri Valley Conference coach to win the Robinson
Award, joining Southern Illinois coach Jerry Kill, who claimed the honor in
2004. After taking over the head coaching duties in 2001, Farley has guided a
perennial national power. His 2005 team tied for the Missouri Valley crown and
advanced to the national championship game before losing to Appalachian State,
21-16. Farley placed third in the 2001 Robinson Award balloting, 10th in 2003,
15th in 2005 and 12th in 2008. In the 2007 voting, Farley received 39 first-
place votes and 310 points out of 120 ballots cast by a panel of sports
information directors and selected media who regularly cover FCS games. Al
Lavan of Delaware State finished second in what was the largest margin ever (97
points) between first- and second-place finishers.
2006, Jerry Moore, Appalachian State
-- The Mountaineers posted a 10-1 regular-season record and held the No. 1
ranking in The Sports Network Top 25 throughout most of the season, and
completed a perfect 7-0 mark in the Southern Conference. The 10-1 regular-
season record was Moore's second-best mark at Appalachian State, and was his
best result since an undefeated 1995 campaign. The Mountaineers captured the
2005-07 FCS championships. After stints with North Texas and Texas Tech, Moore
coached 24 seasons at Appalachian State, finishing with a 215-87 record to make
him the winningest coach in SoCon history. Twenty-three of Moore's 24 squads at
ASU posted winning records and 10 won conference championships. He finished
one point ahead of North Dakota State head coach Craig Bohl in the voting to
capture the coveted award. He was a member of the 2014 College Football Hall of Fame class.
2005, Sean McDonnell, New Hampshire
-- New Hampshire's 10-1 regular-season mark was its best since 1994, and the Wildcats also claimed a share of the Atlantic 10 title for the first time since that season. New Hampshire finished sixth in the nation with 470.8 yards per contest, and ranked third nationally with 42.4 points per game. Quarterback Ricky Santos and wide receiver David Ball both made the final Walter Payton Award Watch List, and the Wildcats held the No. 1 ranking for five weeks during the season. McDonnell led the Wildcats back to No. 1 in the 2014 season, when he captured the Robinson Award for a second time. Through 16 seasons at New Hampshire, McDonnell has compiled a 126-73 mark.
2004, Jerry Kill, Southern Illinois
-- Kill completed a stunning turnaround at Southern Illinois by leading the
Salukis to a 10-2 record and their second postseason berth in a row. Southern
Illinois was ranked No. 1 in the country for the final 10 weeks of the regular
season and posted a perfect 7-0 record in Missouri Valley Conference play. The
Salukis finished the regular season with a 9-0 mark against FCS competition,
and outscored teams by more than 30 points per contest. Southern Illinois
garnered the No. 1 seed in the 2004 postseason, though it bowed out to Eastern
Washington in the first round. The Salukis endured nine straight losing
seasons before Kill was hired in 2001. After a 5-18 mark in his first two
seasons, Kill led the Salukis to 10-2 records in 2003 and 2004. After seven
seasons at the helm of Southern Illinois, compiling a 55-32 mark and five
straight FCS playoff appearances, Kill was named the head coach at Northern
Illinois in December 2007. In his three seasons at NIU, Kill guided the
Huskies to three consecutive bowl game berths for the first time in school
history. Kill was tabbed as the new head coach at Minnesota in December 2010.
2003, Mike Ayers, Wofford
-- Ayers became the fourth Southern Conference coach to win the Robinson Award
guiding the Terriers to a perfect 8-0 mark in the competitive league and a
12-2 record overall. In the process, the Terriers earned the school's first-
ever FCS playoff bid and advanced all the way to the semifinals before bowing
out to eventual national champion Delaware. Wofford defeated preseason
Southern favorite Georgia Southern (20-14) and perennial conference powers
Appalachian State (24-14) and Furman (7-6) during a 10-game winning streak to
end the regular season. In the playoffs, the Terriers knocked off North
Carolina A&T (31-10) and Western Kentucky (34-17) to advance to the
semifinals. Wofford became the first Southern Conference team since 1998 to
finish with a perfect record in conference play. Through the 2014 season, he
had a 182-126-1 mark at Wofford. Overall, he was 193-147-2.
2002, Tommy Tate, McNeese State
-- 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 Co. defeated No.
17 Nicholls State on the final week of the regular season, securing their
first outright Southland Conference title and undefeated conference season
since 1995. Tate coached seven seasons at McNeese State.
2001, Pete Lembo, Lehigh
-- Lembo's first season as head coach at Lehigh was an overwhelming success,
as the 31-year-old led the Mountain Hawks to a perfect 10-0 regular season,
fourth straight Patriot League championship, and a berth in the 2001 NCAA
playoffs. Lembo was promoted from assistant head coach to the top post on
Feb. 7, 2001, when former head coach Kevin Higgins took an assistant
coaching position with the NFL Detroit Lions. The Mountain Hawks didn't miss a
beat under Lembo, rolling through the regular season and claiming seven
double-digit victories. Once in the postseason, Lehigh defeated Hofstra
(27-24) in the first round before falling to eventual national runner-up
Furman (34-17) in the quarterfinals. Lembo coached five years at Lehigh and
four at Elon University for a 79-33 record. At Elon, Lembo guided the Phoenix
to a 30-16 mark and their first-ever berth in the FCS playoffs in 2009. He was
named the head coach at Ball State in December 2010.
2000, Joe Glenn, Montana
-- Glenn enjoyed terrific success in his first season as head coach at
Montana, as the former Northern Colorado head man led his Grizzlies to a 13-2
record and a berth in the national championship game. After losing a 10-9
decision to Hofstra in his Montana debut, Glenn led his charges to 13 straight
wins, including a perfect 8-0 mark in Big Sky Conference play. The Griz
entered the 2000 playoffs as the No. 1 seed, and disposed of Eastern Illinois,
Richmond and Appalachian State to earn their first trip back to the national
championship since 1996. There, Montana fell (27-25) to Georgia Southern in
one of the most entertaining title games of all time. Glenn, who led Montana
to the 2001 national championship, was head coach at the University of Wyoming
from 2003-08. Glenn was named the new coach at South Dakota in 2011 and had a
188-100-1 coaching record when he headed back to the sidlines.
1999, Mickey Matthews, James Madison
-- Matthews engineered a startling turnaround in his first season at James
Madison, helping the Dukes recover from a 3-8 record the year before to post
an 8-4 mark, an Atlantic 10 title and the school's first trip to the FCS
playoffs since 1995. JMU shot out of the gate at 7-1, winning seven straight
games including consecutive wins against league powers Delaware (21-7),
Villanova (23-20), and William & Mary (30-20). Matthews' team would rise as
high as No. 8 in the national rankings, and entered the postseason at No. 13.
JMU's season ended with a 27-7 loss to Troy in the opening playoff round.
Matthews began the 2013 - his 15th at JMU - with over 100 career wins. He is
the only two-time winner of the Eddie Robinson Award (he also won in 2008).
1998, Paul Johnson, Georgia Southern
-- Johnson led Georgia Southern back to the top of the FCS mountain in his
second season as head coach, leading the Eagles to an undefeated regular
season and No. 1 national ranking. GSU breezed through its 11-game schedule,
winning seven of eight Southern Conference games by double digits en route to
an outright league title. The team's winning ways continued into the playoffs,
where Johnson and Co. scorched Colgate (49-28), Connecticut (52-30) and
Western Illinois (42-14) before a 55-43 loss to UMass in the national final.
Johnson departed Georgia Southern following the 2001 season, after amassing a
62-10 (.861) record and two national titles (1999 and 2000) in his five years
in Statesboro. Johnson moved on to Navy, where he led the Midshipmen to a
45-29 mark and five bowl appearances. In his first six years at Georgia Tech,
Johnson has led the Yellow Jackets to bowl appearances in each season. His
overall coaching mark through the 2013 regular season stood at 155-71, and he
was named the ACC Coach of the Year in 2008.
1997, Andy Talley, Villanova
-- Talley's Villanova team went a perfect 11-0 in the 1997 regular season, winning the Atlantic 10 Championship and entering that year's playoffs as the No. 1 seed. The strength of the Wildcats was evident from the outset of the campaign, with a 64-0 lightning-shortened destruction of West Chester (the game was called at halftime) providing the push VU would need in conference play. Once in the league, the Wildcats were nearly unstoppable, winning seven of their eight A-10 games by double digits. Following a first-round playoff win over Colgate (49-28), Villanova was upset by eventual national champion Youngstown State (37-34). Through 2014, Talley has been at Villanova for 30 seasons, compiling a 215-128-1 mark, including an FCS national championship in 2009. In 35 overall seasons, Talley owned a 243-146-2 mark.
1996, Darren Barbier, Nicholls State
-- Nicholls State achieved the unthinkable
its second season under Barbier, turning an 0-11 record in 1995 into 1996's
8-4 mark and FCS playoff appearance. The Colonels started a modest 3-3, but
won their final five games of the regular season, including a 17-16
barn-burner with McNeese State in the season finale. Nicholls' 4-2 league
stands as its only winning conference ledger in an 11-year affiliation with
the Southland Conference. NSU lost to Montana in the first round of the 1996
and ended the year ranked No. 15 in the country. Barbier resigned with a four-
year record of 17-28 (.486) following the 1998 season, and became an assistant
coach at Tulane. Following his departure from Tulane, Barbier was the head
coach at De La Salle High School in New Orleans.
1995, Houston Nutt, Murray State
-- After going 9-13 in his first two years at Murray
State, Nutt led a renaissance at the Kentucky school that included a perfect
11-0 regular season and the program's first playoff appearance since 1986. The
Racers routed their way to the Ohio Valley Conference title, winning their
games by an average of 27.9 points per contest. A 17-7 win over defending OVC
champ Eastern Kentucky in early November gave Nutt's team the league crown.
MSU was ranked No. 4 in the country in the final regular-season Top 25 poll,
but fell (35-34) to Northern Iowa in the opening playoff round. Nutt departed
Murray State with a 31-16 (.660) overall record following the 1996 season, and
was hired as the head coach at Boise State. Nutt left after one season (5-6)
and was head man at Arkansas for 10 seasons, posting a 75-48 mark and seven
bowl berths. In his first three seasons as the head coach at Ole Miss, he
guided the Rebels to a 28-11 record, Cotton Bowl wins over Texas Tech and
Oklahoma State and a 2010 Sugar Bowl appearance. Nutt resigned after the 2011
1994, Jim Tressel, Youngstown State
-- Tressel became the second Robinson Award
recipient to lead his team to the national championship, as Youngstown State
completed the 1994 campaign with a 14-0-1 record. Following a 10-10 tie with
Stephen F. Austin in Week 1, the Penguins never looked back, winning their
next 10 regular-season games in mostly decisive fashion. In the opening
playoff round, Tressel's charges dismantled Alcorn State and Payton Award
winner Steve McNair (63-20), and followed that triumph with wins over Eastern
Kentucky, Montana and Boise State. Tressel departed Youngstown State to take
the Ohio State head coaching reigns following the 2000 season, leaving YSU
with a 135-57-2 (.701) record and four national championships. After joining
the Buckeyes in 2001, Tressel led OSU to an 94-22 mark, 10 bowl appearences
(winning six) and a perfect 2002 national championship team in 2002 (14-0). He
left the school in 2011 and is currently the vice president of school
engagement at the University of Akron. Named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
1993, Dan Allen, Boston University
-- Allen led BU to the second-greatest
in FCS history during his fourth season, directing the Terriers to an 11-0
regular season after the team had gone just 3-8 the year before. The club
compiled a perfect 8-0 record in Atlantic 10 (then Yankee Conference) play,
and won its
first outright league title since 1980 in the process. The Terriers were
scarcely challenged during the run, with only two opponents coming within
single digits of defeating Allen and Co. Following a 27-21 double-
overtime win over Northern Iowa in the first playoff round, BU was eliminated
(21-14) by Idaho. Allen resigned from BU following the 1995
season, leaving with a six-year record of 35-34 (.507). Allen, who went on
to serve as head coach at Holy Cross from 1996 to 2003, passed away on May 16,
2004, after a long illness.
1992, Charlie Taaffe, The Citadel
-- Taaffe's sixth season at the helm of The
Citadel started with a 10-3 win over FBS Arkansas, and quickly developed into
the winningest season in Bulldog football annals at 11-2. Taaffe's charges
would go on to win the Southern Conference title, the school's first since
1961. Heading into the FCS playoffs, the Bulldogs were tied with Northeast
Louisiana as the No. 1 team in the FCS. After a 44-0 rout of
North Carolina A&T in the first round, The Citadel's season ended in 42-17
fashion to Youngstown State. Taaffe departed the school following the 1995
season with a 55-47-1 (.539) ledger, and spent two years (1999-2000) as head
coach of the CFL Montreal Alouettes. After five years as offensive coordinator
at the University of Maryland, Taafe moved on to become the head coach of the
CFL Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2007-08). He currently serves as offensive
coordinator at UCF.
1991, Chris Ault, Nevada
-- Nevada posted a letter-perfect regular season in
Ault's 16th season in Reno, going 11-0, winning the Big Sky title, and
advancing to the FCS playoffs for the second straight year. A 50-8 dismantling
of Division I-A UNLV to start the season served notice of the Wolf Pack's
strength, and the team was scarcely challenged thereafter. Nevada's 8-0 Big Sky
record included blowout wins over Montana State (54-12), Eastern Washington
(51-14) and Northern Arizona (45-16). The Wolf Pack's season ended with a 30-28
loss to Youngstown State in the national quarterfinals. Ault resigned his
coaching post to become Nevada's full-time athletic director following the 1995
season, but reassumed head coaching duties in December 2003 and led the Wolf
Pack to eight straight bowl games (2005-12) before he retired on Dec. 28, 2012.
Ault, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002, compiled
a 233-109-1 record in 28 seasons as the Wolf Pack head coach, guiding the
program to 16 postseason appearances and 10 conference titles. He is credited
with creating the Pistol offense, which he initially unveiled in 2005.
1990, Gene McDowell, UCF
-- McDowell led Central Florida to a
10-4 mark in 1990, with the Golden Knights becoming the first team to advance
to the FCS playoffs in its first year of eligibility. Following a 4-3 start,
McDowell's team turned it up, winning its final four games of the regular
season to be selected as an at-large playoff entry. After defeating Youngstown
State (20-17) and William & Mary (52-38) in the first two playoff rounds,
UCF's season ended with a loss to eventual champion Georgia Southern in the
semifinals. McDowell stepped down as UCF coach following the 1997 season, and
remains the school's winningest head coach with an 87-61 (.588) record over 13
seasons. McDowell would go on to coach the Tallahassee Thunder of Arena
Football League 2.
1989, Erk Russell, Georgia Southern
-- Russell went out with a bang in his final
year as head coach at Georgia Southern, leading the school to its first
undefeated regular season in modern history and third national championship.
The Eagles mowed down the opposition in an 11-0 regular season, never winning
a game by fewer than eight points and notching a 24.7-point average margin of
63-31 triumph over perennial FCS powerhouse Marshall to end the regular season
helped propel GSU to a magical playoff run. Russell's team routed Villanova
(52-36), Middle Tennessee (45-3) and Montana (45-15) before winning an
exciting final against Stephen F. Austin (37-34). Russell retired following
the 1989 season with an eight-year record of 83-22-1 (.788) and three national
titles. Russell passed away on Sept. 8, 2006.
1988, Bill Russo, Lafayette
-- Russo became the second straight Patriot
(then Colonial) League coach to win the Robinson Award, after leading
Lafayette to a
huge turnaround in his eighth season at the helm. After coming off a 4-7 mark
the year before, Russo's team compiled an 8-2-1 record and won the conference
title. The Leopards shot out to a 5-0 start, defeating reigning league champ
Holy Cross (28-20) to get a corner on the conference crown. Wins over Patriot
foes Colgate (42-35), Bucknell (52-35) and Davidson (38-13) would follow,
before a 52-45 triumph over arch-rival Lehigh put a cap on the championship
run. Russo would win two more Patriot League titles during his time at
Lafayette, recording a 103-98-4 (.512) record in 19 seasons in Easton, Pa.
Russo retired following the 1999 season.
1987, Mark Duffner, Holy Cross
-- Duffner won the inaugural Robinson
Award after guiding Holy Cross to a perfect 11-0 campaign in 1987. The
Crusaders were dominant, going 4-0 in the Patriot (then Colonial) League,
defeating FBS Army (34-24) and routing scholarship programs at Massachusetts
(54-10), Villanova (39-6) and William & Mary (40-7). Though Duffner's team
was not selected for the playoffs due to league policy, Holy Cross was voted
No. 1 in the 1987 final poll. Duffner resigned from Holy Cross following the
1991 season to take the head coaching job at Maryland, leaving the
Worcester, Mass., school with a 60-5-1 (.917) record. Duffner has been an NFL
assistant since 1997, coaching for the Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers
and Jacksonville Jaguars, where he currently serves as linebackers coach.