Names to know: potential EMU football coaches, part one
With Ron English officially out the door, it’s now time to turn our eyes to the candidates to be his successor. We’v e discussed the criteria that Heather Lyke should consider, but in short, the new head coach should have prior experience as a head coach, and preferably have some local ties, or at least connections to the Midwest. Although there are a few former FBS coaches who we’ll include in part 2 of this list, most of the names under consideration have been successful at lower levels, including the Missouri Valley Football Conference, the Ohio Valley Conference, the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and other FCS and Division II conferences.
The sell: Although his teams have struggled the last couple of years, Farley has a 108-51 career record after 12-3/4 seasons as head coach at Northern Iowa. In that time he’s led the Panthers to seven Missouri Valley Football Conference titles, three appearances in the Division I-AA/FCS semifinals, and finished as national runners-up in 2005. A true defensive mastermind, he’s done all that while serving as both head coach and defensive coordinator. In 2007 he won the Eddie Robinson Award,1 a recognition he shares with such coaches as Jerry Kill, Pete Lembo, Houston Nutt, and Jim Tressel.
The catch: Farley grew up in that area of Iowa. Coming out of high school he wasn’t really recruited, and took a year off before starting college. Here’s what his bio says:
His job as a truck driver brought him through Cedar Falls each Monday. He would drop into the UNI-Dome to check out the Panther football team. In the fall of 1982, he walked on to the team, redshirting that first season. He received the Special Team Award his second year, then became a starting inside linebacker three years. He earned honorable mention all-America honors twice, was named MVFC co-Defensive Player of the Year, was selected a team co-captain, and was named a two-time academic all-American. He led the team in tackles three consecutive years.
In other words, he’s coaching at the school that he 1) probably grew up cheering for, 2) gave him a chance as a collegiate athlete, 3) made him a star athlete, 4) gave him his start in coaching, 5) has coached for the last 12 years while raising three children. Getting him to EMU would be a very hard sell indeed.
The sell: Craig Bohl is another Eddie Robinson Award winner — the most recent, in fact. He has a 97-32 record as a head coach in 10-3/4 years at North Dakota State. During that time he’s brought them three conference championships (Great West in 2006, Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2011 and 2012), but more notably they’ve won the last two FCS national championships, and with an 8-0 record and a #1 ranking they could be well on their way to a three-peat.
The catch: If Bohl is interested in leaving Fargo, he’ll likely draw the attention of some deep-pocketed programs with which EMU will not be able to compete financially. The only real hope of drawing him to Ypsilanti is if he’s most motivated by a difficult challenge.
The sell: Through nearly 10 seasons as head coach at Wayne State, Winters has a 56-54 record, but after going 13-29 in his first four years they haven’t had a losing season since. They haven’t won any conference championships, but did manage a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference South Division title in 2010, and finished as Division II national runners-up in 2011, for which he was awarded the NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year award.
The catch: Winters has already turned down at least one MAC school, and that was his alma mater (and home town), Akron. At that time (December 2011), Winters said, “I’ve never used any job for a steppingstone. What I’m trying to do is establish a program that is consistently a winner, and I look at a Larry Kehres2 at Mount Union as someone I’d like to emulate.” On the other hand, the Warriors have struggled the last couple of years, and moving from Wayne State to EMU would not require a major relocation.
The sell: In six years at Grand Valley State, Martin posted a 74-7 record, inlcuding five consecutive GLIAC championships, four national championship game appearances, and back-to-back Division II national titles. From 2005 to 2007 the Lakers won 40 consecutive games, breaking a longstanding Division II record, and his teams never lost a regular-season game after his first season. There’s also a local connection, as he was EMU’s linebackers coach in 1998 and 1999 under Rick Rasnick.
The catch: After the 2009 season, he left Grand Valley State to join his predecessor, Brian Kelly, at Notre Dame. As the offensive coordinator for the Fighting Irish, Martin probably makes more than he would as a head coach at EMU, and he’ll get considered for head coaching vacancies at top-tier schools. Plus, EMU was 7-15 for the two years he was here, and he probably doesn’t have the fondest memories of Ypsilanti.
The sell: Mitchell was Martin’s successor at Grand Valley State, and he’s kept things rolling, with a 34-10 record and one GLIAC championship through 3-3/4 seasons.
The catch: 34-10 and one conference championship is a far cry from where Martin left the program four years ago, when they were dominating the GLIAC and contending for national championships year after year. I have some doubts about Mitchell’s readiness for the challenges that being head coach at EMU would present.
The sell: One of the few coaches on this list who have had success at multiple schools, Creighton has 139-45 career record in 16-3/4 seasons at three schools. In four seasons at Ottawa University in Kansas his teams went 32-9, winning the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference twice. In seven years at Wabash College in Indiana, he went 63-15, winning four North Coast Athletic Conference titles and reaching the Division III quarterfinals twice. Now in his sixth year at Drake University (in Des Moines, Iowa), he is 44-21, and the Bulldogs are the two-time Pioneer Football League defending champions. Although his career isn’t splashed with national championships like Bohl’s or Martin’s, I find the repeated success across multiple schools nearly as impressive, and possibly more relevant to EMU’s needs.
The catch: He doesn’t have the flashiest resume, but it’s one that could be well-suited to EMU. If he succeeds in Ypsilanti he’d probably be moving on after five to seven years, but if we can get that success in the meanwhile, I’ll take it.
Stay tuned for part two…