(PHOTO: Alcorn State head coach Jay Hopson) Philadelphia, Pa. (SportsNetwork.com)- Alcorn State head football coach, Jay Hopson has been nominated as a top 20 finalist for the Eddie Robinson FCS Coach of the Year Award. Hopson led the Braves to a 9-3 record, their first 9-win season in 30 years.
Among the four most prestigious awards in the FCS, the Eddie Robinson Award carries potential for the most widespread voting. The Sports Network, which sponsors the award, announced 20 finalists on Tuesday, including at least one from all 13 FCS conferences.
Some of the coaches have led championship seasons and their teams to the FCS playoffs. Some have raised their teams from the bottom tier of their conference. Others have refused to buckle under the pressure of high expectations. Their accomplishments, both on and off the field, run deep.
Ironically, the list starts alphabetically with head coaches from the three top-ranked teams in the FCS – the Killer B’s of Craig Bohl of No. 1 North Dakota State, Dino Babers of No. 2 Eastern Illinois and Beau Baldwin of No. 3 Eastern Washington. But the impressive candidates flow from there.
Voting will reflect only regular-season results and will be conducted by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries. The winner will be announced at The Sports Network FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation to be held Dec. 16 in Philadelphia.
The winners of the three FCS player awards – the Walter Payton (FCS outstanding player), the Buck Buchanan (FCS outstanding defensive player) and the Jerry Rice (FCS freshman of the year) – also will be announced at the national banquet.
The 2013 Eddie Robinson Award candidates:Jay Hopson
, Alcorn State – In his second season at Alcorn State as the only white head football coach in Southwestern Athletic Conference history, Hopson has led a five-win improvement from 2012 and handed Jackson State its only conference loss. 2013 Records: 9-3, 7-2 SWAC.Dino Babers, Eastern Illinois – No. 2-ranked Panthers have captured the outright Ohio Valley Conference championship and its automatic playoff bid, beaten FBS San Diego State and have not lost to an FCS opponent. 2013 Records: 10-1, 7-0 OVC.
Beau Baldwin, Eastern Washington – No. 3 Eagles have won the Big Sky Conference title and its automatic playoff bid and defeated FBS Oregon State. 2013 Records: 9-2, 7-0 Big Sky.
Craig Bohl, North Dakota State – The 2012 Eddie Robinson Award winner guides the two-time defending FCS champion Bison – the only unbeaten team in the FCS, a winner over FBS Kansas State and headed to the playoffs as the Missouri Valley Football Conference champion. 2013 Records: 10-0, 7-0 Missouri Valley.
Jamey Chadwell, Charleston Southern – One of only six FCS teams with 10 wins, the 18th-ranked Buccaneers can clinch the Big South Conference’s automatic playoff bid with a win this weekend. 2013 Records: 10-2, 3-1 Big South.
Jack Cosgrove, Maine – Picked eighth in the CAA Football preseason poll, the fourth-ranked Black Bears have won the conference title and its automatic playoff bid, beating FBS Massachusetts along the way. 2013 Records: 10-1, 7-0 CAA.
Bruce Fowler, Furman – Picked seventh in the Southern Conference’s two preseason polls, the Paladins have a chance to share the title and earn the conference’s automatic playoff bid. 2013 Records: 6-5, 5-2 Southern.
Russ Huesman, Tennessee at Chattanooga – No. 23 Mocs have clinched a share of the Southern Conference title, beaten FBS transitioning Georgia State and hope to earn their first playoff bid since 1984. 2013 Records: 8-3, 6-2 Southern.
Bobby Lamb, Mercer – First-year program has posted four- and five-game winning streaks and is one final Pioneer Football League victory away from a 10-win campaign. 2013 Records: 9-2, 5-2 Pioneer.
Ed Lamb, Southern Utah – After being picked ninth in both Big Sky Conference preseason polls, the 20th-ranked Thunderbirds have gone out and tied the school record for wins in a season, beaten FBS South Alabama and are in contention for their first-ever FCS playoff bid. 2013 Records: 8-3, 5-2 Big Sky.
Jimmye Laycock, William & Mary – No. 19 Tribe have fueled a five-win improvement from 2012 with the nation’s stingiest scoring defense and are battling in CAA Football for an FCS playoff bid. 2013 Records: 7-4, 4-3 CAA.
Joe Moglia, Coastal Carolina – After guiding the school’s first playoff win last season, the second-year coach hopes to take the No. 11 Chanticleers back to the playoffs with the Big South Conference’s automatic bid. 2013 Records: 10-1, 4-1 Big South.
Joe Moorhead, Fordham – No. 12 Rams won their first 10 games, including against FBS Temple, and hope to secure an FCS playoff bid as a Patriot League at-large selection. 2013 Record: 10-1.
Jim Parady, Marist – With a school-record eight wins, the Red Foxes have earned a share of their first Pioneer Football League championship and are awaiting a tiebreaker to decide the league’s automatic playoff bid. 2013 Records: 8-3, 7-1 Pioneer.
Buddy Pough, South Carolina State – The Bulldogs have rebounded from their only losing record in Pough’s 12 seasons, hoping a ninth win this weekend will earn them the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title and a playoff bid. 2013 Records: 8-3, 6-1 MEAC.
Rod Reed, Tennessee State – No. 25 Tigers have used a dominant defense to finish second in the competitive Ohio Valley Conference and hope nine wins will lead to their first playoff bid since 1999. 2013 Records: 9-3, 6-2 OVC.
Ron Roberts, Southeastern Louisiana – After being picked fifth in the Southland Conference preseason coaches poll, the No. 8 Lions have clinched at least a share of the conference title and earned its automatic playoff bid during an eight-game winning streak. 2013 Records: 9-2, 6-0 Southland.
Bob Surace, Princeton – In joining the Top 25 for the first time since 2006, the No. 22 Tigers have smashed Ivy League offensive records and would clinch an outright league title with a ninth straight win this weekend. 2013 Records: 8-1, 6-0 Ivy.
Matt Viator, McNeese State – No. 6 Cowboys have never had a losing record in Viator’s eight seasons, and a first playoff bid since 2009 would build on a season that includes the Southland Conference squad’s win over FBS South Florida. 2013 Records: 9-2, 5-1 Southland.
Eric Wolford, Youngstown State – No. 15 Penguins from the Missouri Valley Football Conference ran off a six-game winning streak and are in contention for their first FCS playoff bid since 2006. 2013 Records: 8-3, 5-2 Missouri Valley.