Coach of the Year: A Look to Past Winners

November 4th, 2011 by Andrea Bennett

Cast your votes for the most stellar college coaches.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Since 2006, Liberty Mutual has honored the country’s most outstanding football coaches through its Coach of the Year award. This award isn’t based solely on stats and rankings. Rather, the finalists are determined first by fan votes, and then via a scoring model endorsed by the College Football Hall of Fame, in which off-field civic and philanthropic contributions are also taken into account.

Fan voting started at the beginning of September at the Coach of the Year website and runs through December 3rd to help determine the 25 finalists. A panel of 55 members of the College Football Hall of Fame and 25 national sports journalists then select the division winners, each of whom receives $50,000 to donate to the charity or charities of his choice and $20,000 for his school’s alumni association. Since its inaugural season in 2006, the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award has donated more than $1.2 million to over 80 charities and colleges. This year’s finalists will be announced December 6, while the winners will be announced January 9, 2012, in New Orleans, in advance of the BCS championship game.

Look to Past Winners for Great Examples

And so far, the formula has picked some real on- and off-the-field winners. Last year’s winners included Auburn coach Gene Chizik, who won the BCS title game this past January and secured the school’s seventh Southeastern Conference title. Add to that Chizik’s mantra of team discipline: the Tigers had fewer penalties on average than the rest of the SEC. Off the field, Chizik supports the Boys and Girls Clubs, works with aTeam Ministries to provide support to families with children fighting cancer, and regularly visits the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

Delaware Coach K.C. Keeler led his alma mater to the FCS national title game for the third time last year, with 74 victories in nine seasons (ranking him third all-time in Delaware coaching wins). His student athletes were an all-American team in the classroom, as well – 15 of them achieved academic honors. Keeler has lent his team’s support to causes including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware’s youth suicide prevention campaign, Autism Delaware and the National Marrow Donor program, among others.

Coach Bob Nielson and the University of Minnesota Duluth sit atop NCAA Division II as national champions, with both stellar players and a 79-21 career record. But in Duluth, Nielson and his Bulldogs are also celebrities for civic and philanthropic endeavors. Last year, he was the honorary chairman of the Udac “Walk a Mile in Our Shoes” campaign, helping to provide fitness services for people with severe physical, mental or developmental disabilities, and he and his players and staff participate in an annual fishing tournament to raise money for ALS research.

Finally, in only three years as coach at the University of St. Thomas football program, Glenn Caruso has led the Tommies to become a national force, with the school’s first conference championship in 20 seasons. UST reached the Division III quarterfinals for the second straight year, with a D3football.com ranking of #7 in the nation. Off the field, Coach Caruso and his program are making a great impact in the community as well. He is a founder of a Reading Recess program, and both he and the Tommie players regularly participate in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life and volunteer at the annual Vision Walk for the Foundation for Fighting Blindness.

So cast your votes for this year’s winner now. And new this year, you can vote for one coach in each division per day on a mobile-enabled version of www.coachoftheyear.com on your smartphone. You can also join the conversation on Twitter @LMCoachofYear and share your picks on Facebook, at www.Facebook.com/LMCoachofYear.

And Remember, the 2011 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award winners will be announced January 9, in advance of the BCS championship game in New Orleans.