Darnell Recognized for Community Service

For the second consecutive year, head coach Gary Darnell of the Western Michigan University football team has been honored for his community service and coaching accomplishments.

Darnell was recently named one of four finalists for the State Farm Eddie Robinson Coach of Distinction Award, which was presented to Miami (Fla.) coach Larry Coker on Saturday (Nov. 30) during halftime ceremonies of the State Farm Bayou Classic, broadcast on NBC television.

Darnell was joined by Coker, LSU's Nick Saban and Ron Turner of Illinois as finalists for the award, which acknowledges coaches who serve as role models to their players and are active within their community. All four coaches were profiled in a full-page advertisement that appears in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated.

"Being recognized as a candidate for this award was a great honor," said Darnell, who recently concluded his sixth season with the Broncos. "Anytime you can be associated with a great coach and man like Eddie Robinson it's humbling. The important thing is that people are being recognized for doing the right thing and instilling the right attitudes within their football programs."

Under Darnell's direction, the WMU football team assisted the Kalamazoo Valley chapter of Habitat for Humanity last summer, spending three months renovating a vacant house in the Hawley neighborhood for a family to move into. Darnell has also been active with the American Diabetes Association and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo. He and his players have taken part in mentoring programs for at-risk youths and conducted football camps and autograph sessions to benefit WMU's Care About Kids program. Gary's wife, Sandra, has spent the past few years coordinating hospital visits by Bronco players during the week of home games.

A 32-year veteran of the collegiate coaching ranks, Darnell has led the Broncos to a 40-29 record over six seasons, including back-to-back West Division titles (1999-2000) in the Mid-American Conference. He ranks 14th all-time among MAC coaches in league wins (31) and overall winning percentage (.577). During his tenure, the Brown & Gold have also produced 45 All-MAC selections and nine district all-academic honorees.

The State Farm Eddie Robinson Coach of Distinction Award is named after Grambling State University's legendary coach, who compiled 408 victories over 57 seasons, while at the same time molding men of good character. Last year, Darnell was tabbed a finalist along with Fisher DeBerry of Air Force, Florida's Steve Spurrier and Lou Holtz of South Carolina. Coker is the latest recipient of the award, which included DeBerry last season, Tyrone Willingham of Stanford in 2000, Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee in 1999 and Penn State's Joe Paterno in 1998.

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