Normally we here at CFT have next to nothing — if that — to do with the Div. III level of college football. Larry Kehres, though, is not the norm when it comes to that level, or any other level for that matter.
In a surprise announcement Wednesday morning, Mount Union (Ohio) confirmed that the legendary long-time head coach has decided to step down from his post. The decision is effective immediately.
The 63-year-old Kehres has been the head coach at his alma mater for 27 years and has been at the school for the last 39. He will remain on as the athletic director.
“The best part of the job was developing relationships with players and continuing those relationships following their graduations,” commented Kehres. “Coaching the Purple Raiders has been a tremendous experience for my family. We have shared many great experiences with our players, fellow coaches, trainers and their families. We plan to continue to enjoy working with Mount Union coaches and athletes.”
Whether the Purple Raiders continue to enjoy the unparalleled success the D-III football program had under Kehres remains to be seen.
The raw stats involved in Kehres’ 27-year run are stunning and mind-boggling. Kehres finishes his career with a 332-24-3 (.924) overall record, with the winning percentage ranking No. 1 in the history of college football at any level (No. 2? Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne at .881).
The Purple Raiders won 11 D-III national championships (1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2012) under Kehres, losing in the finals five other times as well as in the semifinals four times. To go along with the national success was conference supremacy, with the Purple Raiders claiming 23 league titles, including the last 21 in a row. Mount Union lost a total of eight conference games with Kehres on the sidelines, and just two since the beginning of the 1992 season.
Perhaps most amazingly, Mount Union finished the regular season undefeated 21 times during Kehres’ 27 years at the school, and haven’t lost a non-playoff game since 2005.
During Kehres’ time at the school, the Purple Raiders went on 54- and 55-game winning streaks.
“Coach Kehres has been an incredible success, not only in winning football games and national championships at an unprecedented level, but also in positively shaping the lives of countless student athletes,” Mount Union president Dr. Richard Giese stated. ”His impact on Mount Union has been dramatic, and the entire Raider family will clearly miss him on the sideline. Larry, his wife Linda, and the Kehres family are a special part of the fabric that makes Mount Union unique, and we are indeed grateful. We are pleased that Larry will still be leading our entire, highly successful athletic program as director of athletics, and we are appreciative for both what he has done and what he will continue to do for Mount Union.”
The person who will have the unenviable task of stepping into Kehres’ shoes is an individual who is quite familiar with both Larry Kehres the coach and Larry Kehres the person.
In conjunction with Kehres’ retirement, the school announced that Vince Kehres, the now-former head coach’s son, will take over for his father. The younger Kehres played for the Purple Raiders and has spent the past 13 seasons on his dad’s coaching staff, the last eight as defensive coordinator.
“Obviously Mount Union football has been a part of my entire life,” stated Vince. ”I have a passion for coaching and working with young men and I can think of no better place to do that then at Mount Union. I promise this program will continue to uphold the values and ideals that have made Mount Union what it is in the world of college football,” said Vince Kehres. “Our mission remains the same — bring quality young men to this place and allow them the opportunity to grow and be successful on and off the field.”