Speckman Finishes Third in Fan Voting for Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University Head Coach Mark Speckman finished third in the fan voting for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award for the 2008 season. Larry Kehres, head coach at Mount Union College in Ohio, won the award for NCAA Division III, after finishing second in the fan voting, and earning additional support in voting by members of the College Football Hall of Fame and the national media.

Kehres led Mount Union to its 10th NCAA Division III national championship in 2008. He has been the head coach at Mount Union since 1986 and has achieved an overall record of 275-21-3 during his 23 seasons.

As the winner of this year's Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award, Kehres will designate which charity or charities will receive a total of $50,000. An additional $20,000 will be donated to the alumni association at Mount Union.

The leader in the finals of this year's fan voting was John Gagliardi of St. John's University in Minnesota. Gagliardi recently completed his 60th season as a collegiate head coach, including 56 seasons at St. John's. He was selected in 2007 to receive the first Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award for NCAA Division III.

Speckman guided the Bearcats to an 11-1 overall record this past fall, including 10-0 during the regular season. The Bearcats also won the Northwest Conference championship with a 6-0 mark. Willamette was seeded #1 in the West Region of the NCAA Division III Playoffs, and defeated #2 seed Occidental College, before falling to the eventual national runners-up from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Willamette ended the regular season ranked #6 in the D3Football.com Top 25 and moved up to #4 in the final rankings following the NCAA Playoffs. WU also was ranked #6 at the end of the regular season in the AFCA Coaches Poll, before moving up to #5 in the AFCA's Final Poll. The Bearcats averaged 41.5 points per game and achieved a +16 takeaway margin, after forcing opponents into 31 turnovers.

Including the 2008 season, Speckman has achieved a 63-48 (.568) record in 11 seasons as Willamette's head coach. The Bearcats are 91-53-1 (.631) in 14 seasons since Speckman first arrived on the WU campus as the offensive coordinator in 1995. He was promoted to head coach starting with the 1998 season.

Other finalists were Greg Debeljak from Case Western Reserve University and Dan MacNeill from Cortland State. All coaches in NCAA Division III were eligible for the award when preliminary fan voting began during the season. Fan voting limited the field to a total of 25 coaches. The five finalists were selected using a point system to evaluate their coaching success, team achievements, and community service efforts.

A special "Thank You" goes out to everyone who supported Coach Speckman during the fan voting process. Your involvement has been greatly appreciated by Coach Speckman and the Willamette Athletics Department.

Head Coach Mark Speckman led Willamette to an 11-1 overall record and a berth in the NCAA Division III Playoffs in 2008.

Head Coach Mark Speckman led Willamette to an 11-1 overall record and a berth in the NCAA Division III Playoffs in 2008.