SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University Head Coach Mark Speckman has been named NCAA Division III Region 5 Coach of the Year for the 2008 season, as selected by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). A total of 28 coaches from all levels of the NCAA and the NAIA were chosen for Regional Coach of the Year recognition.
The Regional Coach of the Year winners will be honored at the AFCA Convention in Nashville, Tenn., on Jan. 13. The National Coach of the Year winners in all five divisions of competition (NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III, NAIA) also will be named during the AFCA Convention.
Speckman and his coaching staff led Willamette to a 10-0 regular season record, including the Northwest Conference title at 6-0. The Bearcats qualified for the NCAA Division III Playoffs and received the #1 seed in the West Region. WU defeated #2 seed Occidental College, 48-33, in the first round of the playoffs, before falling to eventual national runner-up the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 30-27, in the second round.
Willamette was ranked #6 at the end of the regular season in the AFCA Coaches Poll and the D3Football.com Top 25. WU moved up to #4 in the Final D3Football.com Top 25 and #5 in the Final AFCA Poll following the playoffs. The Bearcats concluded the year with an 11-1 record for Willamette's top season since the 1997 team went 13-1.
Speckman guided Willamette to a record-breaking season on offense. The 'Cats scored a school record 498 points, including a record 69 total touchdowns. WU scored more than 30 points in each of its first 11 games and finished the season with 41.5 points per game. Willamette forced 31 turnovers and allowed opponents just 19.5 points per game.
In 11 seasons as the head coach at Willamette, Speckman has achieved a 63-48 (.568) record. The Bearcats are 91-53-1 (.631) in 14 seasons since he arrived on the WU campus as the offensive coordinator in 1995. He has been WU's head coach since the 1998 season.
A total of six Regional Coaches of the Year were chosen in NCAA Division III. In addition to Speckman, other Regional winners were Mike Welch of Ithaca College (N.Y.) in Region 1, Greg Debeljak of Case Western Reserve University (Ohio) in Region 2, Jimmie Keeling of Hardin-Simmons University (Texas) in Region 3, and Larry Kehres of Mount Union College (Ohio) and Matt Land of Trine University (Ind.) in a tie for the honor in Region 4.