Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell highlights today’s announcement of the 2021 Werner Ladder AFCA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Regional Coach of the Year winners. These winners will be honored on Sunday, January 9, during the 2022 AFCA Convention in San Antonio, Texas.
The AFCA recognizes five regional Coach of the Year winners in each of the Association’s five divisions: Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III and NAIA. The winners are selected by Active members of the Association who vote for coaches in their respective regions and divisions.
Werner Ladder became the title sponsor of the AFCA FBS Regional and National Coach of the Year awards in August of 2019. Werner is the world leader in ladders and has a complete line of climbing products designed for working at heights.
“Once again, it is an honor to join the AFCA in announcing the winners of the 2021 Werner Ladder AFCA FBS Regional Coach of the Year,” said Stacy Gardella, vice president of brand marketing at WernerCo. “These five coaches ‘stepped up’ and gave college football fans one of the best seasons in recent memory. Werner Ladder would like to congratulate Coach Fickell, Coach Pittman, Coach Tucker, Coach Traylor and Coach Anderson on a job well done.”
Fickell, the Region 1 winner, earned his second straight AFCA Regional honor after guiding Cincinnati to a 13-0 record, the American Athletic Conference championship and the program’s first berth in the College Football Playoff. Cincinnati will play Alabama in the CFP semifinals in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. He has an overall record of 48-14 and won two straight AAC titles with the Bearcats.
The Region 2 winner, Arkansas’ Sam Pittman takes home his first AFCA Regional honor. In only his second season as head coach, Pittman engineered one of the great turnarounds in college football, taking the Razorbacks from three wins in 2020 to eight wins in 2021. Arkansas upset two ranked teams, then-No. 15 Texas and then-No. 7 Texas A&M, this season and will face Penn State in the Outback Bowl.
Mel Tucker also earned his first AFCA Region 3 honor by leading Michigan State to a school record eight-win turnaround. The Spartans finished the regular season at 10-2 after going 2-5 in a covid-shortened 2020 campaign. Tucker is 17-14 in his three years as a head coach at Michigan State and Colorado and has the Spartans playing Pittsburgh in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Jeff Traylor is another first-time winner from Region 4. He has led UTSA to its first-ever Conference USA title with an 12-1 overall record. Traylor is 19-6 in his two years as head coach, the best 25-game start for a UTSA coach and has the Roadrunners on 10-game home winning streak, another school record. UTSA will play San Diego State in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl.
The fourth first-time winner in 2021 is Blake Anderson from Utah State. The Region 5 winner led the Aggies to the Mountain West Conference title in his first season as head coach. Utah State is 10-3 overall and went 7-0 on the road for the first time in program history. They are the first FBS school to go 7-0 on the road since 2013. Anderson has an overall record of 61-40 in his eight years as a head coach at Utah State and Arkansas State. He led the Red Wolves to two Sun Belt Conference titles and six bowl games in his seven years as head coach.
AFCA National Coach of the Year: The AFCA will announce the 2021 Werner Ladder AFCA FBS National Coach of the Year on Sunday, January 9, 2022. The Regional winners are finalists for National Coach of the Year.
Award History: The AFCA began recognizing district coaches of the year following the 1960 season. The awards were established the same year Eastman Kodak agreed to sponsor the AFCA Coach of the Year award. Prior to 1960, the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain had sponsored the program, which recognized one national Coach of the Year.
The AFCA first recognized eight district winners in each of two divisions: university and college. In 1972, a ninth district was added in each division. In 1983, the award was changed to recognize regional winners instead of district winners. The number of divisions was also increased from two to four and five regional winners were selected in each division. This resulted in a more equitable selection process and better represented the make-up of the membership. At the same time, the new system increased the number of honorees from 18 to 20. In 2006, the AFCA Division II Award was split into separate Division II and NAIA divisions, giving us the 25 winners we now recognize.
Most Awards: Penn State’s Joe Paterno (District 2: 1967-68, 1971-73, 1977-78, 1982; Region 1: 1985; Region 3: 1994, 2005) has the most FBS District/Regional Coach of the Year honors with 11. Three coaches have won the award seven times: Bo Schembechler, Miami (Ohio), Michigan; Bob Devaney, Nebraska and Tom Osborne, Nebraska. Four coaches have won Regional honors six times: Vince Dooley, Georgia; Brian Kelly, Grand Valley State, Cincinnati, Notre Dame; John McKay, USC and Darrell Royal, Texas.
For more information, visit www.wernerladder.com.