FCS Football: Sam Houston State's Keeler wins Eddie Robinson Award
There isn't much K.C. Keeler hasn't accomplished over a 23-year career that includes a national championship and over 200 victories.
Sam Houston State's distinguished program leader added another impressive achievement to his resumè on Wednesday, being named the 2016 Eddie Robinson Award winner honoring the FCS Coach of the Year.
By directing the Bearkats to an unbeaten regular season and a No. 1 ranking in the STATS FCS Top 25, Keeler edged out The Citadel's Brent Thompson among 15 finalists representing all 13 FCS conferences. Voting was conducted by a national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries.
"It's a great honor to receive an award named after one of the legendary coaches in the history of college football," Keeler said. "I know coach Robinson and my college coach, Tubby Raymond, had a relationship, and I know coach Raymond loved telling stories about coach Robinson because I know the respect that he had for coach Robinson."
Keeler oversaw one of the most dominant regular seasons in recent memory, with the Bearkats outscoring their 11 opponents by a 596-285 margin behind one of the most productive offenses in FCS history. That was followed with a 41-36 win over Chattanooga in the second round of the playoffs as quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe - one of three players invited to the announcement of the 2016 STATS FCS Walter Payton Award - threw five touchdown passes to set the subdivision's single-year record with 57.
Sam Houston State leads the FCS with averages of 53.1 points and 570.4 total yards - both school records - and ranks second in passing offense (385.8 ypg).
Keeler attained a significant milestone as well, earning career win No. 200 during the Bearkats' 63-28 rout of rival Stephen F. Austin on Oct. 1 to become the ninth-fastest coach to reach the mark across all levels. Thirty-seven of those victories have come in NCAA postseason games, and his 18-5 record in the FCS playoffs stands as the highest winning percentage among all active coaches with at least 15 games.
The 57-year-old is the third Southland Conference coach to claim the Robinson Award and first since McNeese's Tommy Tate in 2002. Keeler was a finalist two times previously, finishing fourth during a 2003 season in which he guided alma mater Delaware to a national title.
Keeler received 41 first-place votes and 442 points to narrowly beat out Thompson, who went 10-2 and led The Citadel to a No. 6 national seed in his first season as the Bulldogs' head coach. Thompson's successor, Mike Houston, finished third, having taken James Madison to an 11-1 mark and No. 5 national ranking in his debut with the Dukes.
Thompson garnered 37 first-place votes and 435 points, while Houston topped 22 ballots and received 318 points.
Keeler, whose Bearkats visit Houston's JMU squad in Friday's quarterfinals, will be recognized at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet in Frisco, Texas on Jan. 6, the eve of the FCS Championship Game.
The final voting results:
1. K.C. Keeler, Sam Houston State: 41-33-22-16-7-442
2. Brent Thompson, The Citadel: 37-30-27-20-9-435
3. Mike Houston, James Madison: 22-22-27-13-13-318
4. Bubba Schweigert, North Dakota: 15-14-13-21-16-228
5. Chris Klieman, North Dakota State: 9-13-12-18-17-186
6. Jerry Mack, North Carolina Central: 6-8-14-12-10-138
7. Chris Villarrial, Saint Francis: 2-8-11-5-14-99
8. Brian Bohannon, Kennesaw State: 5-7-4-6-16-93
9. Broderick Fobbs, Grambling State: 8-2-6-9-8-92
10. Rod Broadway, North Carolina A&T: 4-5-7-7-11-86
11. Andy Coen, Lehigh: 3-4-4-9-8-69
12. Steve Campbell, Central Arkansas: 2-4-3-8-13-64
13. Dale Lindsey, San Diego: 1-3-4-7-7-50
14. Bob Surace, Princeton: 1-3-1-5-4-34
15. Jason Simpson, UT Martin: 0-0-1-0-3-6
A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote four points, a third-place vote three points, a fourth-place vote two points and a fifth-place vote one point.