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18 FCS coaches named Eddie Robinson Award finalists

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as Eddie Robinson leaves coaches in awe, but 18 in the FCS have an even more special connection this year.

On Monday, they were selected as finalists for the 31st STATS FCS Eddie Robinson Award, which honors the FCS Coach of the Year.

Named for the legendary coach of Grambling State, past winners of the Robinson Award include Mark Duffner, Erk Russell, Chris Ault, Jim Tressel, Houston Nutt, Andy Talley, Paul Johnson, Joe Glenn, Jerry Kill, Jerry Moore and two-time winners Mickey Matthews, Sean McDonnell and Craig Bohl.

This year's list includes at least one coach from all 13 FCS conferences. A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will select the recipient.

The 18 finalists:

Mike Ayers, Wofford - 2003 Eddie Robinson Award winner has led the Terriers to the Southern Conference title for the fifth time and the FCS playoffs for the eighth time in his 30th season. His team has been ranked in the Top 10 most of the season. Record: 9-2.

Al Bagnoli, Columbia - In Bagnoli's third season, the Lions finished with winning overall and Ivy League records for the first time since 1996. In tying for second place, they won five more games than they did in 2016. Record: 8-2.

Brian Bohannon, Kennesaw State - Has led the Owls to the Big South championship and the FCS playoffs in just the program's third season. The Owls finished the regular season on a 10-game winning streak. Record: 10-1.

Rod Broadway, North Carolina A&T - The Aggies are one of two unbeaten teams in the FCS and are headed to the third annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl for the second time as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion. Record: 11-0.

Kevin Callahan, Monmouth - In his 25th season, the Hawks have posted their best record since 2006 and qualified for the FCS playoffs for the first time. Picked fourth in the Big South preseason poll, they've improved by five wins and finished as the conference runner-up. Record: 9-2.

Dave Cecchini, Valparaiso - After the Crusaders won three total games against the same opponent in the four seasons prior to Cecchini's arrival, his third team ended with its best overall and Pioneer Football League records since 2003. Record: 6-5.

Curt Cignetti, Elon - The Phoenix have posted a six-win turnaround in Cignetti's first season after finishing 2-9 a year ago. Picked to finish 11th in the CAA Football preseason poll, they've defeated four Top 25 teams on the way to their first FCS playoff bid since 2009. Record: 8-3.

Charlie Fisher, Western Illinois - The Leathernecks have posted a school-record six road wins, including a rout of FBS member Coastal Carolina, in qualifying for the FCS playoffs. Their eight overall wins are the most since 2003. Record: 8-3.

John Grass, Jacksonville State - The Gamecocks have not lost a regular-season game to a non-FBS opponent in Grass' four seasons, sweeping their way to the Ohio Valley Conference title and the FCS playoffs. His .860 (43-7) winning percentage is tops among active Division I coaches. Record: 10-1.

Will Healy, Austin Peay - The Governors overcame a 29-game losing streak and a 1-47 overall stretch by winning eight of their final 10 games, with three of this year's four losses against FBS opponents. They also halted long Ohio Valley Conference (21 games) and road (45) losing streaks. Record: 8-4.

Mike Houston, James Madison - The defending national champions are one of two unbeaten teams in the FCS, sweeping to the CAA Football title as the No. 1-ranked team all season. They Dukes take a 23-game winning season - the longest in Division I - into the FCS playoffs. Record: 11-0.

Dan Hunt, Colgate - The Raiders earned a share of the Patriot League title for the second time in three years and are the only team in the league with a winning record. They allowed only 32 points during a season-closing five-game winning streak. Record: 7-4.

Chris Klieman, North Dakota State - The Bison won the Missouri Valley Football Conference title for the seventh consecutive season, and take a national-high six Top 25 wins into the FCS playoffs. Klieman has 50 wins in his four seasons guiding NDSU. Record: 10-1.

Mike London, Howard - London's first season at Howard began with the program's first FBS win as the Bison beat UNLV as 45-point underdogs. While tying for second place, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference squad posted its first winning record since 2012 and the second in the last 16 years. Record: 7-4.

Fred McNair, Alcorn State - The second-year coach is taking the Braves to the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game for the fourth straight season - a first in conference history - after they finished atop the East Division standings. Record: 7-4.

Tim Rebowe, Nicholls - The Colonels have turned around their program since ending a 23-game losing streak during Rebowe's first season in 2015. This year, they've qualified for the FCS playoffs with their first winning season since 2005. Record: 8-3.

Pete Rossomando, Central Connecticut State - The Blue Devils are headed to the FCS playoffs for the first time after they won an outright Northeast Conference title. They are on an eight-game winning streak, which is the longest in the program's FCS history. Record: 8-3.

Demario Warren, Southern Utah - In his second season, the Thunderbirds have earned a share of the Big Sky title and the conference's automatic bid to the playoffs after being picked seventh in the league's preseason poll. Record: 9-2.

Also this season, STATS will present the Walter Payton Award (FCS offensive player of the year), the Buck Buchanan Award (FCS defensive player of the year), the Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman player of the year) and the Doris Robinson FCS Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.

Updated November 20, 2017

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