Symphony Guild — yes, the symphony — sponsors Mount Union football coach Larry Kehres’ talk here
SALISBURY — Larry Kehres has been described as the winningest college football coach you’ve never heard of.
Over a 359-game coaching career at the University of Mount Union, an NCAA Division III school in Alliance, Ohio, Kehres has compiled a record of 332 wins, 24 losses and three ties, for an incredible .925 winning percentage.
His Purple Raiders, comprised of all non-scholarship players, have won 11 national championships since 1993 and have appeared in the Alonzo Stagg Bowl, the Division III national championship game, in 14 of the past 16 years.
Kehres will be the guest speaker May 1 at the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA. His topic: “Winning Ways.”
As amazing as Kehres’ coaching record is, just as amazing — or interesting — is that his appearance in Salisbury is being sponsored by the Salisbury-Rowan Symphony Guild.
Tom Wolpert, the guild president, has looked to make a statement through guild fundraisers the past two years. In 2012, he helped to bring one of the “Violins of Hope,” restored violins from the Holocaust, to Salisbury for a special concert performance at Catawba College.
This year, he used his Mount Union connections to land Kehres as a guest speaker. Wolpert is a Mount Union graduate who grew up in the shadow of the small college, located in northeast Ohio. His brother, David S. Wolpert, is another alumnus and director of planned giving for Mount Union.
Through both the “Violins of Hope” and Kehres’ appearance, Tom Wolpert hopes he’s spreading the visibility of the Salisbury Symphony throughout the county.
“We’re reaching out to the community — that’s my big thing,” Wolpert says. “I just think it’s a good thing for the community.”
In recent weeks, Wolpert has been trying to touch base with all the middle school and high school football coaches in Rowan County to extend special invitations to their teams to attend Kehres’ program, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. May 1.
He’s hoping players, dressed in their school colors, will come and sit as a team during Kehres’ presentation.
The general public also is being invited. Proceeds go to the guild. The ticket price for adults is $10; students, $5.
Kehres himself is a 1971 graduate of Mount Union, where he was quarterback of the football team. During 1971-72, he served as a graduate assistant coach at Bowling Green State University while earning a master’s degree in health and physical education.
By 1973, he was a head football coach for Johnstown Monroe High in Johnstown, Ohio, but he returned to Mount Union the next season, starting 11 seasons as assistant coach, many of them as offensive coordinator.
Kehres took over as head coach in the 1986 season. Here are some of his accomplishments as head coach since then:
• The Raiders have won 23 Ohio Athletic Conference Championships, while posting 21 undefeated regular seasons.
• 11 Division III national championships, including 2012.
• An overall conference record of 228-8-3.
• A home record of 188-9-3.
• A playoff record of 78-13.
• American Football Coaches Association National Coach of the Year eight times.
• An AFCA Regional Coach of the Year for seven straight seasons and a record 17 times overall.
• In 2008, the second-ever NCAA Division III winner of the Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year Award.
• 260 players who earned All-American honors.
• Five players who won the Gagliardi Trophy, awarded to the top player in Division III football.
• 18 players who were Academic All-Americans and three players who were finalists for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the Academic Heisman.
In 2011, Kehres also served as offensive coordinator of the U.S. National Football team, winner of the gold medal in the World Championships in Austria.
At Mount Union, Kehres is an associate professor of physical education and has been director of athletics since 1991. Over time, Mount Union sports have expanded to include 23 sports for men and women.
He oversaw a $17 million expansion and renovation of the school’s Timken Physical Education Building and the Peterson Field House.
In a school biography, Kehres says his successful program has been built on organization and consistency. As a coach, he has stressed attacking the defense and making it cover the whole field, creating big plays on defense and being aggressive in the kicking game to gain field position.
“Being consistent in all three phases and being well-conditioned puts you in a position to win games in the fourth quarter,” he says.
Kehres grew up just a few miles north of the Mount Union campus is Diamond, Ohio. He attended high school 10 minutes from the Mount Union campus, and he now lives within sight of the school’s football field.
He traditionally carries a large number of players on his rosters because there are no cuts. There is no money for scholarships, and most of the players are taking out college loans for the $35,000-a-year tuition.
Former players say Kehres is among the best at every aspect in coaching, things such as recruiting, teaching, strategy, evaluating and adapting to his players’ strengths.
His son Vince is his defensive coordinator, and most observers believe the heir apparent to the head coaching job.
Another amazing statistic behind Kehres’ incredible coaching run: Mount Union has not lost three games in any season since 1988.
For more information on Kehres’ visit, contact the symphony at 704-637-4314, or visit its web site at salisburysymphony.org.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.