Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Saint Francis’ (Ind.) Kevin Donley highlight today’s announcement of the American Football Coaches Association’s 2017 Regional Coach of the Year winners. These winners will be honored at the American Football Coaches Awards, presented by Amway, broadcast live on the USA TODAY Sports Facebook page on Tuesday, January 9, 2018, at 8 p.m. EST. The awards show will air from the Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center during the 2018 AFCA Convention.
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.
Smart earned his first AFCA Regional Coach of the Year honor by guiding Georgia to a 12-1 record, the Southeastern Conference title and an appearance in the College Football Playoff. In his two seasons as a head coach, Smart has an overall record of 20-6 and has led the Bulldogs to bowl games each season. Donley earned his fourth AFCA Regional honor and third straight after guiding Saint Francis to a 13-0 record, the Mid-States Football Association Mideast title and a second straight trip to the NAIA National Championship game. He has an overall record of 315-129-1 in 39 years as a head coach, and a record of 201-44 in 20 seasons leading the Cougars. Donley is the winningest head coach in NAIA history.
2017 AFCA Regional Coach of the Year Winners
Football Bowl Subdivision
Region 1: Scott Frost, University of Central Florida
Region 2: Kirby Smart, University of Georgia
Region 3: Paul Chryst, University of Wisconsin
Region 4: Matt Campbell, Iowa State University
Region 5: Jeff Tedford, California State University, Fresno
Football Championship Subdivision
Region 1: Al Bagnoli, Columbia University
Region 2: Brian Bohannon, Kennesaw State University & Mike London, Howard University (tie)
Region 3: John Grass, Jacksonville State University*
Region 4: Dave Cecchini, Valparaiso University
Region 5: Demario Warren, Southern Utah University
Region 1: Mark Maciejewski, Shippensburg University
Region 2: Pete Shinnick, University of West Florida
Region 3: Lee Owens, Ashland University
Region 4: Bill Maskill, Midwestern State University
Region 5: Tom Sawyer, Winona State University
Region 1: Jason Mangone, The College at Brockport
Region 2: Mike Sirianni, Washington & Jefferson College
Region 3: Tony Kunczewski, Berry College
Region 4: Troy Abbs, Trine University
Region 5: Rick Willis, Wartburg College
Region 1: Chris Oliver, Lindsey Wilson College*
Region 2: Kevin Donley, University of Saint Francis (Ind.)*
Region 3: Larry Wilcox, Benedictine College (Kan.)
Region 4: Steve Ryan, Morningside College* & Matt McCarty, Northwestern College (Iowa) (tie)
Region 5: Charlie Hall, Southern Oregon University
AFCA National Coach of the Year: The AFCA will announce the 2017 National Coaches of the Year winners in FBS, FCS, Division II, Division III and NAIA at the American Football Coaches Awards, presented by Amway, broadcast live on the USA TODAY Sports Facebook page on Tuesday, January 9, at 8 p.m. EST. The Regional winners in each division are finalists for the National Coach of the Year.
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. The number of divisions was also 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.
Repeat Winners: Jacksonville State’s John Grass, Lindsey Wilson’s Chris Oliver, Saint Francis’ Kevin Donley and Morningside’s Steve Ryan are the repeat winners from 2016. Grass has won four Regional honors in a row, from 2014-17, as has Ryan, who now has seven honors (2005, 2011, 2012, 2014-17). With his repeat selection this year, Donley now has four Regional honors to his name (2008, 2015-17) while Oliver has recorded five honors (2011, 2013-14, 2016-17).
Multiple Winners: Other multiple winners in the 2017 class are Al Bagnoli (fourth; 1983, 1989, 1991, 2017), Mark Maciejewski (second: 2012, 2017), Lee Owens (third: 2012, 2015, 2017), Bill Maskill (second: 2011, 2017), Rick Willis (second: 1999, 2017) and Larry Wilcox (third: 1985, 2013, 2017).
First Time Winners: Seventeen coaches earned their first AFCA Regional Coach of the Year Award in 2017: Central Florida’s Scott Frost, Georgia’s Kirby Smart, Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford, Kennesaw State’s Brian Bohannon, Howard’s Mike London, Valparaiso’s Dave Cecchini, Southern Utah’s Demario Warren, West Florida’s Pete Shinnick, Winona State’s Tom Sawyer, Brockport’s Jason Mangone, Washington & Jefferson’s Mike Sirianni, Berry’s Tony Kunczewski, Trine’s Troy Abbs, Northwestern’s (Iowa) Matt McCarty and Southern Oregon’s Charlie Hall.
Most Awards: Mount Union’s Larry Kehres (1986, 1990, 1992-93, 1996-97, 1999-02, 2006-12) has the most district/regional honors in AFCA history, with 17. Penn State’s Joe Paterno (District 2: 1967-68, 1971-73, 1977-78, 1982; 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 1986-88, 1994-95; Division II, Region 1, 2000-01, 2005-06, 2008). Hale won his first three awards while at West Chester. Pete Fredenburg is in the fourth spot with nine Regional honors (2000, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012-14, 2016). Eight coaches have won the award seven times: Tubby Raymond, Delaware; Jim Butterfield, Ithaca; Bo Schembechler, Miami (Ohio), Michigan; Bob Devaney, Nebraska; Tom Osborne, Nebraska; Mel Tjeerdsma, Northwest Missouri State; Carmen Cozza, Yale; and Steve Ryan, Morningside. 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); Alabama-10 (Bear Bryant-4, Bill Curry-1, Gene Stallings-2, Mike Shula-1, Nick Saban-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); Bloomsburg-9 (George Landis-1, Danny Hale-7, Paul Darragh-1); Ithaca-9 (Jim Butterfield-7, Mike Welch-2); Mary Hardin-Baylor-9 (Pete Fredenburg-9); 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); Georgia-8 (Vince Dooley-6, Mark Richt-1, Kirby Smart-1); Northwest Missouri State-8 (Mel Tjeerdsma-7, Adam Dorrel-1); 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: Mike Houston (The Citadel, 2015 & James Madison, 2016) joined seven other coaches who have earned AFCA Regional Coach of the Year honors at two schools in consecutive years: Fred Akers (Wyoming, 1976 & Texas 1977), Dennis Franchione (Pittsburg State, 1989 & Texas State, 1990), Jim McElwain (Colorado State, 2014 & Florida, 2015), Hal Mumme (Valdosta State, 1996 & Kentucky, 1997), Dick Sheridan (Furman, 1985 & North Carolina State, 1986), Kevin Sumlin (Houston, 2011 & Texas A&M, 2012) and Joe Tiller (Wyoming, 1996 & Purdue, 1997).
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). Jacksonville State’s John Grass and Morningside’s Steve Ryan join Carroll’s Mike Van Diest, 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. Grass earned his four straight in FCS from 2014-17, while Ryan got his in NAIA, also from 2014-17. 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). Fifteen 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.