FCS coaches seeking greater success
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - The seat was getting warm for some FCS head coaches heading into last season, but they were cool, calm and collected in their response:
- Rhode Island's six wins were only one fewer than coach Jim Fleming's first four seasons when he led the Rams to their first winning record in 17 years.
- Stetson hadn't had a winning season since resurrecting its program in 2013, but coach Roger Hughes fired off an 8-2 campaign.
- Mark Elder was only 7-15 in his first two seasons at longtime Ohio Valley Conference power Eastern Kentucky before the Colonels responded with a 7-4 record.
Each coach is ready to build on the success.
Which coach will be next to see his struggling FCS program put the pieces together in 2019?
There's greater emphasis on winning in the subdivision with 49 schools having undergone coaching changes over the last two offseasons. Here are nine coaches who hope for a breakthrough season this year like some of the success stories of a year ago:
David Archer, Cornell
2018 Record: 3-7 overall, 2-5 Ivy (7th)
There's no doubt Archer is popular at his alma mater because his contract has been extended twice even without a winning record overall (15-45) or in the Ivy League through six seasons. His squad seeks to improve behind the return of 14 starters.
Earnest Collins Jr., Northern Colorado
2018 Record: 2-9 overall, 2-6 Big Sky (11th)
It's been particularly difficult for Collins to lift the Bears in the Big Sky, the largest FCS conference. He's 26-62 in seven seasons. The return of often-injured quarterback Jacob Knipp for a sixth season of eligibility will bring offensive stability as long as he stays healthy.
Nick Hill, Southern Illinois
2018 Record: 2-9 overall, 1-7 Missouri Valley (10th)
The former Salukis quarterback hasn't quite recruited enough depth for his program to flourish in the rugged Missouri Valley Football Conference, where they were a leading power during his playing career. He's young and energetic, which must be favorable to athletic director Jerry Kill, Hill's college coach. Hill is 10-23 (5-19 MVFC) through three seasons.
Jason Houghtaling, Wagner
2018 Record: 4-7 overall, 3-3 Northeast (4th)
The Seahawks have had too much talent not to win more often, like Houghtaling's best season in 2016 (6-5, 4-2). He's 15-29 through four seasons, although a much-better 10-14 in the Northeast Conference. A mere three starters return on offense this year, so there will be growing pains for a program that always challenges itself outside the conference.
Carroll McCray, Gardner-Webb
2018 Record: 3-8 overall, 2-3 Big South (4th)
With the Big South growing in size, there's added pressure for McCray to get the Runnin' Bulldogs advancing again. He is 24-44 through six seasons and 40-83 in his career. With 16 starters and 52 letter-winners returning this season, optimism abounds.
Rod Reed, Tennessee State
2018 Record: 4-5 overall, 3-4 Ohio Valley (5th)
Reed's TSU future was in limbo after last season, when he and athletic director Teresa Phillips met to determine if he would be back for the final year of his contract. A veteran squad with fewer injuries and the addition of some FBS transfers suggest plenty of improvement. Reed is 53-47 through nine seasons, but with only one FCS playoff appearance.
Vic Shealy, Houston Baptist
2018 Record: 1-10 overall, 0-9 Southland (11th)
The only coach in Houston Baptist history is signed through the 2020 season, but he's a mere 4-38 in Southland Conference games and 10-45 overall. The Huskies have a much-more veteran squad that they did entering last season.
Rob Tenyer, Morehead State
2018 Record: 3-8 overall, 2-6 Pioneer (Tie/7th)
Tenyer earned a contract extension after going 7-4 in the 2015 season, but it's his only winning record through six campaigns (25-43 overall). The popular coach is switching up the defensive scheme this season to get his Pioneer Football League moving forward again.
Scott Wachenheim, VMI
2018 Record: 1-10 overall, 0-8 Southern (9th)
Consistent winning remains elusive at the military school, where Wachenheim is 6-38 overall and only 2-29 in the Southern Conference through four seasons. But his Keydets appear primed for improvement with 16 returning starters, including 3,000-yard quarterback Reece Udinski.
Updated July 8, 2019