FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt is one of nine finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award it was announced by The Football Writers Association of America on Monday.
Nutt has led the Razorbacks to a 10-2 record, a Southeastern Conference Western Division championship and a No. 8 national ranking. The ninth-year Arkansas head coach will guide the Hogs against the Florida Gators at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga., this weekend in the 2006 SEC Championship Game. Nutt won a different version of the Eddie Robinson Award for the Division I-AA level while at Murray State in 1995.
Joining Nutt as finalists are Rutgers’ Greg Schiano, Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe, Houston’s Art Briles, Hawaii’s June Jones, Michigan’s Lloyd Carr, BYU’s Bronco Mendenhall, Boise State’s Chris Petersen and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops.
The finalists will be placed on a ballot which will be sent out to the entire FWAA membership by e-mail. FWAA members will be asked to vote for their top three choices in the order they are deserving.
The FWAA Coaching Award is named after Robinson, a coaching legend at Grambling State University for 55 years. He has more Division I-A victories (408) than any other coach. The winner of the FWAA/Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award will be announced and honored at a reception on Jan. 5 in Glendale, Ariz., in conjunction with the BCS 1-2 game.
It is a particularly competitive year in the coaching profession. As a result, the FWAA All-America Committee, which selects the finalists, believed it was up to the membership to decide among an array of candidates.
Surprising years by Arkansas, Wake Forest, Michigan and Rutgers were reasons for the competitive balance.
Nutt’s Razorbacks came out of nowhere after losing their opener to USC, won 10 straight games, and secured a place in the SEC title game opposite Florida. Wake Forest, under Grobe, likewise rather stunningly made the ACC title game.
Rutgers may be the Cinderella story with Schiano, after taking East Coast football by storm and contending for the Big East title. Michigan, after a sub-par 2005 season, stormed back to win its first 11 games before falling to top-ranked Ohio State. The Wolverines have virtually secured a spot in a BCS Bowl game.
Meanwhile, strong seasons by BYU, Houston and Hawaii all qualified those coaches as Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year candidates.
Boise State’s Petersen has directed the Broncos to the only other unbeaten regular season in major-college football besides Ohio State and a virtually assured spot in the BCS. Stoops’ Sooners will be playing in the Big 12 title game against Nebraska after losing their starting quarterback and top running back.
Of the nine candidates, only Stoops is a previous winner at the Division I-A level. He won the Eddie in 2000, the same season his Sooners won the FWAA’s Grantland Rice Trophy, symbolic of the national championship.