Thursday, December 18, 2003

The Best College Football Coach in the Country is ... Larry Kehres of Mount Union


MOUNT UNION and LARRY KEHRES

The Best College Football Coach in the Country is ...
Larry Kehres of the Purple Raiders of Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio.
Coach Larry Kehres has built Mount Union College into a Division III football juggernaut (phrase coined by Milan Simonich, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

NORMAN CHAD writes about MOUNT UNION and LARRY KEHRES

Norman Chad, writes about Larry Kehres and the Mount Union football phenomenon at the Boston Globe. Take a look at that article.

FACTS ABOUT MOUNT UNION and LARRY KEHRES

Looking for a good coach?
Larry Kehres coaching makes the Stoops brothers look like beginners.
The Mount Union teams of Larry Kehres have lost only 1 game in the last 7 years (in overtime) and have 109 wins in their last 110 games. Mount Union just broke its previous NCAA record of 54 straight wins from 1996-1999 by winning its 55th consecutive game Saturday, beating Bridgewater 66-0 in an NCAA Division III semifinal playoff game. Since the NCAA Division III has nationwide playoffs to determine the national champion, the ultimate winner every year IS the real champion, and the streak of wins has nothing to do with an easy schedule or faulty polls.
This team is simply the best, year after year, although there are still some records to be broken - see an article byJack R. Weber Jr. in the Alliance, Ohio The-Review.com.

Mount Union (13-0) now plays again this year in the 2003 NCAA Division III final - a final which it has won the last 6 of 7 years. Its opponent is unbeaten (13-0) St. John's of Minnesota, coached by the NCAA's winningest football coach ever, John Gagliardi, who has 413 wins going into the title game. The NCAA Division III final takes place in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Salem, Virginia on December 20, 2003 (10 a.m. CST). Who will win? Mount Union, of course. Gagliardi has yet to beat Kehres in 3 head-to-head competitions, and there is no doubting that Gagliardi is himself a great football coach.

Go to this page for a list of articles about the Mount Union phenomenon.

When someone is doing something many people do - i.e. coaching - so much better than his peers, it is remarkable that more attention has not been paid to his principles and methods. What are Kehres' secrets? Here is what I have been able to glean from online articles written about him, his teams and his players.

STOP WHINING ABOUT WHAT YOU DON'T HAVE: MAKE USE OF WHAT YOU HAVE

Stephanie Storm in the Akron Beacon Journal of November 28, 2003, writes in "Team Concept Rules" that:

"When he [Kehres] thinks back to the start of the run that began Mount Union's dominance, Kehres remembers a meeting held among the team's staff in the early '80s when he was an assistant.
'We just decided to quit pouting about what we didn't have and concentrate on improving the players we had,' Kehres said.
'We went with the idea that if some of the players we recruited weren't as good as some others when they arrived, it was our job to help them catch up,' Kehres said. 'It was sort of, "Come on, let's quit whining and feeling sorry for ourselves and make the most of what we've got." ' "


PREPARE YOUR TEAM to PLAY with PASSION

Larry Kehres says that "The job of a coach is to prepare his team."

Players are asked when they come to Mount Union if they have a passion to play football.
Milan Simonich quotes Kehres at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette concerning his recruiting of players:

"I only ask them three questions, but they're important ... Are you a good man? Do you have a passion for football? Do you plan on getting the grades you're capable of?"

Stephanie Storm quotes Kehres:
"You have to recruit good people, then assist them in their development.''

Mount Union offers NO football scholarships.
About 200 candidates appear for the first practice each year and NO player is ever cut.

DEDICATED and EXPERIENCED COACHING STAFF

The 12-strong coaching staff has numerous experienced coaches well past normal retirement age,
who all know what they are doing. However, there are also some skilled, experienced young coaches as well.

THE COACHING PROGRAM IS EXECUTED WITH MILITARY PRECISION

Stephanie Storm in the Akron Beacon Journal of November 28, 2003, writes:

Kinnard and many other team leaders point to the precision with which the program is run, the attention to every detail all the way down to scheduling the number of minutes for each practice drill, as a main reason for their overwhelming success.

Practices are taken very seriously, but there is little physical contact in order not to unnecessarily bump up the players. Interestingly, Gagliardi at St. John's of Minnesota also has little physical contact in his practices.

As Milan Simonich writes at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

He [Kehres] took a solid program and turned it into a spectacular one by emphasizing precision, mental preparation and weight training. Kehres' players rarely hit during practice. He knows injuries could sink his dynasty faster than an emerging rival, so he mandates that players study film and take out pent-up emotions on tackling dummies.

THE FOOTBALL PLAYED MUST MATCH THE PLAYERS ONE HAS

Stephanie Storm in the Akron Beacon Journal of November 28, 2003, quotes Kehres:

Some years you don't have the kind of players you need to say, run the option,'' he said. 'As a coach, you can't just do what you want to do. You have to match it to the ebb and flow of the kind of players you have.' ''

THE PLAYERS ARE PREPARED OVER YEARS: THE SENIORS HAVE IT: UNDERCLASSMEN MUST BE PATIENT

As reported by Terry Pluto of the Akron Beacon Journal, December 18, 2003:

At Mount, patience isn't a virtue. It's a requirement. When the Purple Raiders host Bridgewater in the Division III national playoff semifinals at noon Saturday, Mount will start only one sophomore and three juniors. The other 18 are all seniors.

PERFECTION and the EXPECTATION TO BE BETTER THAN EXPECTED

Milan Simonich writes at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"He works for perfection," said Matt Caponi, a senior defensive back and a Baldwin High School graduate. "That's how his offense has been for the last three years -- perfect." ...

On the field, Kehres lays down a singular challenge to everybody who pulls on a helmet. "I expect them to play better than they ever thought they could," he says."


MOUNT UNION FOOTBALL IS A CULTURE OF EXCELLENCE

Jack Ewing, president of Mount Union College, is quoted by Simionich as saying about Kehres and the football team:

"This is a culture of excellence that I have never seen before."

VALUES MUST EXTEND BEYOND THE PLAYING FIELD

Stephanie Storm in the Akron Beacon Journal of November 28, 2003, writes:

Football might be the focus of the coach's life, but he teaches his players that their values ought to extend beyond the field.

During football season, players' grades actually improve.

Coach says it's important that we hold ourselves to higher standards, especially when so much attention is focused on us during the season,'' wide receiver Randell Knapp said.

RESPECTED BY THE COMPETITION

Another amazing thing about Mount Union is that there seems to be no envy toward them, but great respect.
As quoted by Michael De Matteis in the December 6, 2003 Mount Union College paper, Mike Swider, the coach of Wheaton College in Illinois (12-1), who lost the semifinal game 56-10, stated:
"'We just got beat up front,' noted Wheaton head coach Mike Swider afterwards. 'Their offensive line gave their quarterbacks all day to throw the football. You win football games up front and Mount Union simply has tremendous players there on both sides of the ball, along with excellent team speed. What they are going through right now, in my opinion, is the greatest achievement in the history of college athletics.'"[emphasis added]

That is quite a complement.

UPDATE: Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports has a nice article about The Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl as "The hidden gem of the bowl season" . Indeed, this is the football college game bowl I would go to see this season. Go here to see a list of past winners, runners-up and final scores of this bowl. More info is found at The Morning Call Online.

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