Today we finally put a bow on our series exploring the top Division III head coaching destinations in college football.
So far, we've ranked the following programs:
Without further ado, coming in at the top spot is...
When you think some of the most dominant football programs in the country over the last several decades, there is no question that Mount Union deserves a spot at the table.
Few, if any programs have appeared in more national title games than Mount Union. The Purple Raiders have appeared in the Stagg Bowl a total of 21 times (including 12 in a row) and brought home the hardware 13 times.
Once upon a time, Mount Union was like any other small college program, battling for conference supremacy. But in 1985, under the direction of Ken Wable, the program turned a corner and won their first conference title in 71 years. In the 35 years since then, Mount Union has captured 30 conference titles. That impressive streak includes 24 in a row that started in 1992 and ended in 2015.
Another thing that makes Mount Union unique, is their coaching longevity at the head coaching spot. From 1986-2019 the program was led by either Larry Kehres, or his son Vince.
After Wable, Larry Kehres took over the program from 1986-2012 and then handed the keys to the dynasty to his son Vince from 2013-2019, who served as the defensive coordinator at the time. Both Kehres' sit atop the school's record books as the winningest head coaches in program history. Vince sits atop that char with a .941 win percentage (95-6 with 2 national titles), and Larry is at #2 with a .929 win percentage (and 11 national titles). All 13 times a Mount Union team has won a national title, they've been led by a Kehres.
Located on the northeastern side of Ohio, just south of Cleveland and between Akron and Youngstown, Alliance is a short drive to both Columbus and just a short skip over the Pennsylvania border to Pittsburgh. Toledo and Detroit are also both under 4 hours in a car as well, making for relatively easy recruiting stops.
Their recruiting footprint stretches far beyond that though, as their success on the national stage has helped them build quite the reputation as their roster includes guys from Georgia, Florida, Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, and Michigan.
On its surface, Ohio being home to 21 Division III schools could seem like a possible negative - however, Mount Union has built a brand over the years that no other small college football program in the state can hold a candle to. They're the small college king in Ohio, and it's not crazy to think that when recruits face the decision of playing high level Division II football, or even Group of 5 ball in some cases or going to Mount Union and competing for a national title at a program with a such a rich tradition...that decision isn't as easy as it may seem.
With Vince Kehres deciding to take a job at Toledo this off season, new head coach Geoff Dart is in the unique position of taking over one of the most appealing jobs in all of college football heading into 2020. He's just the fourth head coach the program has had since 1962 and previously spent seven years as an assistant, and five years as the program's offensive coordinator where he led them to video-game like numbers in each of those seasons.
One last thing that really makes the Mount Union job special is how many graduates stick around and end up coaching with the program. Dartt is a Mount Union grad, as is nearly every single member listed on their football staff page. Most of those coacehs had decorated careers with the Purple Raiders, and every single one of them had such a special experience playing for the program that they decided to give back as coaches. Keeping players around means you don't have to re-teach the culture of excellence because they lived it as players, and coaches can continue to live it and pass it on to the next generation of Mount Union greats.
Dartt will have a loaded roster, a stable of veteran Purple Raider coaches well versed in the expectations of Purple Raider football, community and administrative support that has allowed them to stay on top of the Division III landscape for decades, and no roadblocks in recruiting their immediate area to continue to build on The Mount legacy.