2011, Rob Ambrose, Towson
-- Ambrose is the 25th recipient of the award, which is named for legendary Grambling State head coach Eddie Robinson, the second-winningest coach in Division I history with 408 victories. Now in his third season as a head coach, it was rocky at first for Ambrose, a Towson alumnus, as his teams struggled to 2-9 and 1-10 finishes in his first two seasons. This season, winning was finally part of the discussion, as the Tigers went 5-2 against teams ranked in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 and reeled off three different three-game winning streaks. Towson hadn't had a three-game winning streak since 2006. Ambrose appeared on 110 of the 132 ballots and received 59 first-place votes, edging out Sam Houston State's Willie Fritz.
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.
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 annually to 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
43-30 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 have had four consecutive winning years since legendary PVAM coach W.J. Nicks won nine straight from 1957-65. Frazier resigned as head coach on Monday, Dec. 13, 2010 to take the head coaching position at North Carolina Central.
2008, Mickey Matthews, James Madison
-- Matthews was named the 22nd winner of the Eddie
Matthews is the first two-time winner of the Robinson Award. Matthews 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.
In his first 12 years at the helm of JMU, Matthews has become the winningest
school history, with a record of 88-56. 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.
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 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.
In his first 10 seasons as the head coach, Farley has compiled a 89-37
record and led
the Panthers to two outright conference titles and a share of three others. In
2008, Farley directed the Panthers to back-to-back conference championships
for the first time since the 1995-1996 seasons. Since taking over the head
coaching duties in 2001, Farley has posted a mark of 29-7 in the month of
His 2005 team tied for the league 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.
Farley is the second Missouri Valley Conference coach to win the Robinson
Award, joining Southern Illinois coach Jerry Kill, who claimed the honor in
2004. Farley's honor was just the fourth major award for a Missouri Valley
coach or player. Western Illinois linebackers James Milton (1998) and Edgerton
Hartwell (2000) previously won the Buck Buchanan Award as the top defensive
players in FCS.
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 finishes.
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
completed his 22nd season at Appalachian State in 2010, posting an overall
mark of 199-79 at ASU. Twenty-one of Moore's 22 squads at ASU have posted
winning records, nine have won Southern Conference championships and 16 have
advanced to postseason play. From 2005-10, Moore's squads posted a 71-15
record. Moore finished one point ahead of North Dakota State head coach Craig
Bohl in the voting to capture the coveted award.
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. Through 2010, McDonnell has compiled an 88-58
overall record, with 65 wins the past seven years, and a playoff berth in each
of those seasons.
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 23 seasons at
Wofford, he has a 154-107-1 mark. Overall he is 165-128-2.
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 finished his coaching career with a 188-100-1 record in 24
years on the sidelines.
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 has completed 12 seasons as head coach at James Madison, leading the
Dukes to an 88-56 record and the 2004 national championship. Matthews 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 three seasons at Georgia Tech,
Johnson has led the Yellow Jackets to a 26-14 mark and three bowl appearances.
His overall coaching mark through 2010 stands at 133-53, and 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). In his first 26 seasons as the head coach at
has compiled a 188-107-1 mark, including an FCS national
championship in 2009. In his first 31 years of coaching, Talley owns a
216-125-2 overall 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.
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 one, 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. Since joining
the Buckeyes in 2001, Tressel had led OSU to an 106-22 mark through 2010, 10
bowl appearences (winning six) and a perfect 2002 national championship team
in 2002 (14-0).
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 Wolfpack's
strength, and the team would be 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 Wolfpack'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 for the Wolfpack
in December 2003. Since then, Nevada has played in six straight bowl games
(2005-10). Through the 2010 season, Ault's 26 years of coaching has produced a
219-97-1 record, all at Nevada.
1990, Gene McDowell, U-C-F
-- 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.