Fifteen past Eddie Robinson Award recipients have gone on to guide FBS programs after they received the FCS national coach of the year honor, but never have two squared off against each other after moving to the higher tier of Division I college football.
Until this week, that is – and it’s going to happen twice during a three-day span.
It will first happen Wednesday night in Conference USA when first-year FBS member Sam Houston travels to New Mexico State. K.C. Keeler is still guiding the Bearkats program with which he received the 2016 Robinson Award, and New Mexico State’s Jerry Kill was the 2004 winner at Southern Illinois. They met in the FCS playoffs in 2003 and ’07, with Delaware, which Keeler was coaching at that time, beating SIU both times.
Friday night, Stanford will travel to Colorado in the Pac-12 for a matchup of first-year head coaches. Stanford’s Troy Taylor received the 2019 Robinson Award while coaching at Sacramento State, and Colorado’s Deion Sanders – aka Coach Prime – was the 2021 recipient at Jackson State.
“Growing up as a kid, Eddie Robinson was coaching, he was a living legend,” Taylor said. “Not just for the success he had on the field, (but) you hear from players who played for him and the quality of person he was – how he impacted their lives.”
Actually, there are 18 Eddie Robinson Award recipients who have been FBS head coaches – or half of the 36 to date – but Jerry Moore (2006, recipient at Appalachian State), Tony Samuel (2010, Southeast Missouri) and Dan Hawkins (2018, UC Davis) were FBS head coaches before they received the national coach of the year award in the FCS.
The legendary Robinson guided Grambling State for 56 years before retiring in 1997 with 408 wins – the third-most all-time – and nine black college national championships.
The winner of the 2023 Eddie Robinson Award, presented by FedEx Ground, will be announced on Dec. 7.
(Here’s an all-time list of Eddie Robinson Award and FCS National Awards recipients)