RIVER FOREST, Ill. - Iron Mountain native Randy Awrey has been named head football coach at Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Ill.
With over 30 years of football coaching experience, Awrey will become the 17th head coach in the history of the Concordia-Chicago program which begins its 91st season of intercollegiate competition this fall.
"We are extremely excited that Randy Awrey is now a part of Concordia-Chicago athletics," said Pete Gnan, Concordia-Chicago director of athletics. "We feel that the experience and knowledge he brings to our program will allow us to build upon our recent successes and compete annually with the best teams on a regional and national level."
Awrey has coached football every season since finishing his playing career and serving as a graduate assistant for his alma mater, Northern Michigan University. The 2013 season will be his 19th as a head coach, a season he will enter with a 124-68-1 record.
"I am very happy to be here at Concordia-Chicago," said Awrey. "I would like to thank President John Johnson, Vice President Jeff Hynes and Pete Gnan for entrusting me with the responsibility of guiding this football program. They, among others, have impressed me already as special people who truly care about student-athletes."
A four-year starter for the Northern Michigan program, Awrey played his freshman season as a defensive back and the three following seasons as a running back. In 1975, he was named the Most Valuable Player of the NCAA Division II championship game with a 156-yard performance including a 67-yard touchdown run as part of a 16-14 win over Western Kentucky.
Awrey's early coaching experience includes positions at Westwood (Mich.) High School, Northern Michigan University, Michigan Tech and St. Lawrence (N.Y.) University.
Awrey also served as the head track and field coach at St. Lawrence which was twice the NCAA national champion runner-up. He has been inducted in the Athletics Hall of Fame at both St. Lawrence and Northern Michigan.
Awrey's first position as a head coach came in 1990 at Kentucky Wesleyan University. The 1993 season marked the program's first winning season since the program was revived ten years earlier.
Upon leaving Kentucky Wesleyan, Awrey took the head coach's job at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wis. Awrey led the Muskies (currently a Northern Athletics Conference rival) to a 35-14 record in five seasons including two IBFC championships, three conference Coach of the Year honors and a perfect 10-0 season in 1997.
In 1999, Awrey became the head coach at Division II Saginaw Valley State University. He guided SVSU to two Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference championships and three runner-up championships with the team's first-ever playoff berth in his second season.
In 2003, the team's second championship season, Awrey was honored as the conference and NCAA regional Coach of the Year. His record at SVSU from 1999 to 2007 was 76-27, making him the winningest coach in the program's history.
Awrey returned to Northern Michigan in 2008 and served four seasons as the defensive coordinator. Awrey is well known for developing tough defenses. He guided the NMU defense to become one of the best in the GLIAC with numerous national rankings.
He held the same position at Marietta College in 2012 before receiving the opportunity to interview for the Concordia-Chicago head coach's position.
"The opening at Concordia was an attractive one in several ways," said Awrey, who cites the open Christian faith, the academic reputation and the success of the football program among its top attributes.
But to Awrey, one attribute stands above the rest.
"I am a people person, someone who believes that people make the difference," he said. "In my first few days on Concordia's campus, I have met many great people faculty, staff and students who demonstrate their commitment to this institution and the values it represents. This is important to me. When I try to recruit a high-school athlete to Concordia, I can point to the people and say with pride that this is what Concordia is all about."
Humble pride and servant leadership are the values which Awrey sees his high priorities in the future of Cougar football.
"We want to be the program that has an unmatched work ethic and competitiveness, a program to which parents will be proud sending their sons," he said.
For his players, Awrey will look to instill the following order of priorities "faith, family, education, football team and self. If we follow that, we will have success not only on the field but also in all other aspects of our lives."
Awrey takes over for Lonnie Pries, who resigned to become athletic director and head football coach at Concordia Ann Arbor.
Pries led the Cougars to a 42-29 record, two Northern Athletics Conference championships and a 2012 NCAA III playoff appearance during his tenure.
(Jim Egan is sports information director at Concordia University Chicago)