DALLAS (FWAA) – The Football Writers Association of America, in conjunction with the Allstate Sugar Bowl, announced nine finalists for the 2020 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award on Monday. Among the finalists is a two-time winner and three former finalists representing a combined total of 14 nominations. Two head coaches whose teams are playing in the College Football Playoff headline the list that also includes coaches of three other conference champions and the country’s top independent team.
In alphabetical order the finalists are: Tom Allen, Indiana; Brent Brennan, San José State; Matt Campbell, Iowa State; Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina; Karl Dorrell, Colorado; Luke Fickell, Cincinnati; Nick Saban, Alabama; Kalani Sitake, BYU; and Dabo Swinney, Clemson.
Saban is the dean of the nine finalists as a two-time winner and seven-time finalist. Swinney, a six-time finalist, is among the finalists for a fourth consecutive season and is the only returning finalist from 2019. Both coaches will compete in the CFP next month, Swinney in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Ohio State.
Brennan, Chadwell, Fickell, Saban and Swinney each claimed conference championships this season. Campbell and Iowa State won the Big 12 regular-season title, Allen has Indiana among the top 10 going into the Outback Bowl, and Sitake led BYU into the top 10 and Dorrell had Colorado each unbeaten into December.
“The Allstate Sugar Bowl is proud to sponsor the Eddie Robinson Award and to once again have the opportunity to recognize the top college football coaches in the nation as finalists for this honor,” said Ralph Capitelli, the President of the Allstate Sugar Bowl. “While each of the finalists is fully deserving of the award, we look forward to presenting the trophy to the winner as selected by the football writers.”
The 2020 recipient will be announced the week of Jan. 4-8, 2021. The official presentation will be on the campus of the winning coach at a later date.
The nine finalists have been placed on a ballot which has been sent to the entire FWAA membership.
“The FWAA believes it has an extremely good group of coaches representing different conferences and independents,” said Executive Director Steve Richardson. “We will have a fine recipient for the 2020 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award. The FWAA’s congratulations go out to all coaches for weathering what has been a very trying and unpredictable year.”
“This time of the year with the winding down of the college football season, I’m especially excited to receive the announcement of the Eddie Robinson Coach of Year Award finalists,” said Eddie Robinson III, the grandson of the award’s namesake. “With all of the world dealing with Covid-19, and the fact that we even had a season and that every program had to adapt to deal with the virus protocols etc, all the coaches that made list of finalists are even more than deserving of the award. We wish the best for all that were selected as finalists.”
The FWAA has presented a coaching award since the 1957 season when Ohio State’s Woody Hayes was named the first recipient. The FWAA coaching award is named after the late Robinson, a coaching legend at Grambling State University for 55 seasons.
The 2020 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year finalists:
Tom Allen, Indiana: The Hoosiers (6-1) are one of three teams with three top-25 wins and have been ranked in the top 10 five times in 2020, cresting the top-10 threshold for the first time since 1969. The eight weeks in the poll is Indiana’s longest streak since 1945. In his fifth season in Bloomington, the Big Ten Coach of the Year by media and fellow coaches has led Indiana to six conference wins, tied for the most in program history with the 1967 and ’87 teams. This is Allen’s first finalist honor and the Hoosiers’ first Eddie Robinson Award finalist since 1967 when John Pont was the winner.
Brent Brennan, San José State: The Spartans (7-0) are one of five unbeaten teams heading into the bowl season under their fourth-year head coach. They have been one of the great success stories this season. Having been forced by the pandemic to play three home games outside of California, Brennan, the Mountain West Coach of the Year, and San José State responded by winning their division and playing in the school’s first conference championship game, beating Boise State, 34-20. This is the Spartans’ first winning season since 2012, and a win in the Arizona Bowl would give them their first undefeated season since 1939. This is Brennan’s first Eddie Robinson Award finalist honor and the first for the Spartans.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State: The Cyclones (8-3) were the Big 12 regular-season champions, earning a league title for the first time since 1912, and played in their first Big 12 Championship game. Of the Cyclones’ 22 starters, nine of them were All-Big 12 First Team selections. Campbell, the Big 12 Coach of the Year in his fifth season in Ames, led Iowa State to a school-record eight conference wins and its highest ranking (No. 6 in the CFP) in any poll in its history. A win in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl over Oregon would give the Cyclones their first nine-win season since 2000. This is Campbell’s first Eddie Robinson Award finalist honor and the first for the Cyclones.
Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers (11-0), picked to finish last in the Sun Belt Conference’s East Division, captured the nation’s attention in the first week with a 38-23 win at Kansas, swept their eight conference games plus two more for the first unbeaten season in school history and the first in Sun Belt history. In only its fourth year as a full-time FBS member, Coastal Carolina won its first conference championship, earned its first national ranking (No. 9/11 this week with 10 straight weeks in both polls), its first College Football Playoff ranking (No. 12 in final poll) and defeated two Top-25 teams, including then-No. 8 BYU, 22-17 on Dec. 5. CCU’s current 12-game win streak dating back to last season is tied with No. 1 Alabama for the longest in the nation. The Sun Belt Conference’s Coach of the Year in his third season at the Coastal Carolina helm is the school’s first Eddie Robinson Award finalist. He and defensive end Tarron Jackson, a Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalist, are Coastal’s first finalists for any FWAA postseason award.
Karl Dorrell, Colorado: The Buffaloes (4-1) were one of nine undefeated teams heading into the final two weeks of the regular season and were ranked in the Dec. 7 polls for the first time since October of 2018. Dorrell, in his first season at CU, is the fifth head coach in school history to open 4-0 in his first season and just the second since 1905. Colorado jumped out 3-0 in league play for the first time as a Pac-12 member, making Dorrell the first CU coach to win his first three conference games since 1941. The Buffs will play in the Valero Alamo Bowl, their first bowl game since 2016. This is Dorrell’s second finalist nomination, having also achieved it in 2005 while at UCLA. Colorado has had two previous Eddie Robinson Award winners, most recently Mike MacIntyre in 2016 and Bill McCartney in 1989.
Luke Fickell, Cincinnati: The Bearcats (9-0) won their first outright league title since 2009 and their first American Athletic Conference Championship. Cincinnati is No. 8 in the final CFP rankings and will play in its first New Year’s Six bowl and its first New Year’s Day bowl since the 2009 season when the Bearcats battle Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The Bearcats have one of the nation’s top defenses that ranks in the top 15 in five categories, including second in team interceptions (15) and seventh in scoring defense, giving up only 16 points per game. Fickell, the American’s Coach of the Year in his fourth season at UC, has earned Cincinnati’s first finaliist nod since 2009 when Brian Kelly, now at Notre Dame, earned the designation. Cincinnati has never had an Eddie Robinson Award winner.
Nick Saban, Alabama: The Crimson Tide (11-0) completed their fifth undefeated regular season under Saban and earned the top seed in the College Football Playoff with impressive scoring margins through an all-SEC schedule. Alabama is the only team in SEC history to win 10 conference games in a season while averaging 49.5 points per game in the 10-game regular season and became the first SEC team to post five 50-point games in SEC play. Saban, in his 14th season in Tuscaloosa, has coached more games (84) as the AP’s No. 1 team than any other active head coach and will face Notre Dame in a national semifinal in Arlington, Texas. A two-time Eddie Robinson Award winner (at Alabama in 2008, at LSU in 2003), he is one of Alabama’s two previous winners along with Gene Stallings in 1992. He is now a seven-time finalist, earning the designation in four of the last seven seasons.
Kalani Sitake, BYU: The Cougars (10-1) earned their first 10-win season since 2011 navigating through an oft-altered and harried schedule. BYU is the only FBS team in the top 10 in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense and total defense. The Cougars are in the top 10 in 14 statistical categories overall and have qualified for a 38th bowl game in program history. Sitake, in his fifth season at BYU, is the school’s second finalist and first since Bronco Mendenhall in 2006. LaVell Edwards is BYU’s only previous winner in 1984.
Dabo Swinney, Clemson: The Tigers (10-1) qualified for the College Football Playoff for a sixth consecutive season, heading into their national semifinal game against Ohio State in New Orleans. Swinney and Clemson became the first team in any active conference to win six consecutive outright titles (tied with Oklahoma). Clemson, heading to its 16th consecutive bowl game, has won 10 games for a school-record 10th consecutive season after avenging its only loss to Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers are 18-8 under Swinney in rematches of losses during his career. Swinney, in his 13th season at Clemson, is now a six-time finalist and the only repeat finalist from a year ago; he is among the finalists for a fourth consecutive season and the fifth time in six seasons (also 2015 and ’11). Danny Ford is Clemson’s only previous winner from the 1981 national championship season.