AFCA votes Tressel top coach

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 8, 2003

NEW ORLEANS -- Less than a week after winning the national championship, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was named the Division I-A coach of the year by the American Football Coaches Association.

''It's really extraordinary, it's really humbling,'' Tressel said of the award, which was presented at the AFCA's annual meeting.

Ohio State beat Miami 31-24 in double overtime last Friday to win the national title in Tressel's second year as the Buckeyes' coach. It's the first time Ohio State has won the national championship since 1968.

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''Our kids will have a tremendous challenge,'' Tressel said. ''Everyone is going to want to knock off the group that's No. 1.''

That the award was presented in the city where next year's national title game will be played was not wasted on Tressel.

''Our players know the rotation of where the BCS national championship game is, and I'm sure they know that it's here,'' Tressel said. ''But that's not as important as do they know what it will take to get here.''

Tressel, who won the award at Youngstown State, is the first coach to win it at two different schools and two different divisions.

Jack Harbaugh, who led Western Kentucky to the Division I-AA championship with 10 straight victories after a 2-3 start, was the coach of the year in that division. It was the first national championship for Western Kentucky in any sport.

''Ten years ago we went through a difficult time and I was ready to hang it up and look for another profession,'' Harbaugh said.

At that time Western Kentucky planned to drop football. Harbaugh, with the help of his son Jim, at the time a player for the Chicago Bears, turned the program around.

Brian Kelly earned the Division II coach of the year award by leading Grand Valley State, in Allendale, Mich., to a 14-0 record and the division championship. In 12 years at Grand Valley, Kelly has a 104-34-2 record. His .750 winning percentage is No. 1 all-time in school history.

''I was appointed coach at Grand Valley at 28-years-old,'' Kelly said. ''In 12 years I've learned a lot, but I'm still as nervous and in awe of this profession as ever.''

Larry Kehres won the Division III award for the seventh time after leading Mount Union, of Alliance, Ohio, to a 14-0 record and an 11th straight Ohio Athletic Conference championship and seventh Division III national championship.

Kehres has won 109 of his last 110 games and 42 straight.

''I think the thing that means the most to me is that these awards are voted on by our peers,'' Kehres said.

The AFCA has named a coach of the year since 1935. Beginning in 1983, coaches from four divisions were chosen.