Alabama's Mike Shula, who led the Crimson Tide to a 9-2 record in his third season as the Bama's head football coach, has been named as the American Football Coaches Association's 2005 AFCA Region 2 Coach of the Year.
Meanwhile, Alabama sports columnists couldn't see the forest for the trees. They championed the likes of Steve Spurrier, who won one more game than Lou Holtz had the year before at South Carolina, or Les Miles, who inherited a team full of All-SEC candidates at LSU. Just about everyone except Tennessee's Phil Fulmer and Shula, it seemed.
Professionals saw it differently.
"What makes this award so special is that this is the only coach of the year award voted on exclusively by the coaches themselves," AFCA Executive Director Grant Teaff said. "The winners are selected by the coaches they compete with and against on a daily basis."
Shula led Bama to a final regular season ranking of 13t after, reeling off nine consecutive victories to start the season. The Crimson Tide has been selected to play in the Cotton Bowl against Texas Tech on January 2.
The AFCA recognizes five regional Coach of the Year winners in each of the Association's four divisions: I-A, I-AA, Division II (NCAA Division II and NAIA schools) and Division III. The winners are selected by active members of the Association who vote for coaches in their respective regions and divisions.
Penn State's Joe Paterno has earned Division I-A Region 3 honors this year, giving him a record 11th regional/district award in his 40th year as the Nittany Lion head coach. Penn State finished the regular season 10-1 and will meet Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
Bloomsburg's Danny Hale earned his eighth Regional Coach of the Year award in Division II Region I this year, the third-highest total in the history of the award.
Joining Shula and Paterno as winners in Division I-A are Miami's (Fla.) Larry Coker (Region 1), Texas' Mack Brown (Region 4) and USC's Pete Carroll (Region 5).
In Division I-AA, the winners are New Hampshire's Sean McDonnell (Region 1); Appalachian State's Jerry Moore (Region 2); Eastern Illinois' Bob Spoo (Region 3); Youngstown State's Jon Heacock (Region 4) and Texas State's David Bailiff (Region 5).
Joining Hale as winners in Division II are Presbyterian's Tommy Spangler (Region 2); Washburn's Craig Schurig (Region 3), Morningside's Steve Ryan (Region 4) and Minnesota-Duluth's Kyle Schweigert (Region 5).
In Division III, the winners are Trinity's (Conn.) Chuck Priore (Region 1); Thiel's Jack Leipheimer (Region 2); Mary Hardin-Baylor's Pete Fredenburg (Region 3); Capital's Jim Collins (Region 4) and Wisconsin-Whitewater's Bob Berezowitz (Region 5).
The 2005 Regional Coach of the Year winners will be recognized at the AFCA Coach of the Year Dinner at the 2006 AFCA Convention in Dallas. The dinner is scheduled for January 10.