The American Football Coaches Association capped its 2015 convention by presenting its top coaching award – AFCA Coach of the Year – to five outstanding coaches.
TCU’s Gary Patterson, New Hampshire’s Sean McDonnell, Colorado State-Pueblo’s John Wristen, Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Lance Leipold and Marian’s Mark Henninger are the 2014 AFCA National Coach of the Year winners: Patterson in FBS, McDonnell in FCS, Wristen in Division II, Leipold in Division III and Henninger in NAIA.
The winners are selected by a vote of the active AFCA members (coaches at four-year schools) in the association’s five divisions. The AFCA has named a Coach of the Year since 1935. The AFCA Coach of the Year award is the oldest and most prestigious of all the Coach of the Year awards and is the only one chosen exclusively by the coaches themselves.
Gary Patterson led TCU to a 12-1 record, a share of the program’s first Big 12 Conference title and a victory in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. He has a 132-45 career-record in his 14 seasons as head coach at TCU, making him the winningest head coach in program history. Patterson has guided the Horned Frogs to six conference titles in three different leagues in his time as head coach, and has led the team to 11 victories or more in eight of the past 12 seasons. Patterson’s .746 winning percentage ranks fourth among active coaches nationally with a minimum of 10 years as head coach.
In 2014, Sean McDonnell led New Hampshire to a 12-2 record, a Colonial Athletic Association title and an appearance in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs. The 12 wins this season established new school records for most victories in a season, and most consecutive wins. McDonnell has led the Wildcats to 11 straight appearances in the FCS playoffs during his 16 years as head coach. He has won six Coach of the Year honors in 2014, including his fourth AFCA FCS Region 1 honor. McDonnell has a 126-73 overall record with three conference titles.
John Wristen completed his seventh season as the head coach at Colorado State-Pueblo, leading the ThunderWolves to a 14-1 record, a share of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) title and the Division II national championship. After starting the football program from scratch in 2008, Wristen has led his teams to four straight RMAC titles (2011-12-13-14) and a 48-4 record during that span. He has an overall record of 68-16, and was named AFCA Regional Coach of the Year that same year.
Lance Leipold led Wisconsin-Whitewater to a 15-0 record, a seventh Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship and its sixth NCAA Division III national title in 2014. He has an eight-year record of 109-6 at Whitewater. The Warhawks recorded their fifth 15-0 season under Leipold in 2014. He also earned AFCA Division III National Coach of the Year honors in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. Astonishingly, Leipold won more national championships with Whitewater than his team had losses during his career there.
Mark Henninger led Marian to a 11-3 record, a share of the Mid-States Football Association Mideast League title and an appearance in the NAIA national championship game in 2014. He has a two-year record of 17-8 at Marian, and an overall record of 43-33 including his five years as head coach at North Carolina Wesleyan. Henninger guided the Battling Bishops to an 8-3 record, including a 7-0 conference mark, in his second season as head coach to earn USA South Conference Coach of the Year honors. He led North Carolina Wesleyan to two conference titles in 2009 and 2010, and one Division III playoff appearance.
The winners were honored at the AFCA Coach of the Year Dinner at the Kentucky International Convention Center.