DALLAS (FWAA) – The Football Writers Association of America, in conjunction with the Allstate Sugar Bowl, announced eight finalists for the 2022 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award on Tuesday. The award will have a first-time winner this season chosen from among a list of three repeat finalists from 2021, five former finalists overall, three coaches competing in this season’s College Football Playoff and five who have led conference champions. Four of them will face other finalists in their bowl games.
Here are the 2022 finalists: Sonny Dykes, TCU; Mike Elko, Duke; Willie Fritz, Tulane; Jim Harbaugh, Michigan; Lincoln Riley, USC; Kirby Smart, Georgia; Jon Sumrall, Troy; and Jeff Traylor, UTSA.
Of immediate note are the head coaches at three of the College Football Playoff teams, Dykes, Harbaugh and Smart. Dykes and Harbaugh will face each other Dec. 31 in the one of the CFP Semifinals at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl. Fritz’s Tulane team, which clinched the Group of Five spot in the New Year’s Six bowl alignment after winning the American Athletic Conference championship, will face Riley’s USC team in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2., 2023. Along with Harbaugh (Big Ten) and Smart (Southeastern), Sumrall (Sun Belt) and Traylor (Conference USA) are also conference champions and face each other Dec. 16 in the Duluth Trading Cure Bowl.
"The Allstate Sugar Bowl is certainly honored by the opportunity to work with the FWAA in paying tribute to a Louisiana legend like Coach Robinson by sponsoring this award in his name," said Lloyd Frischhertz, president of the Sugar Bowl Committee. "We'd also like to congratulate these eight coaches for their outstanding success this season. We look forward to presenting the trophy to the winner next month in Los Angeles."
The eight finalists have been placed on a ballot which has been sent to the entire FWAA membership. The 2022 recipient will be announced on Tues., Dec. 20. The official presentation will be at a reception Sat., Jan. 7, 2023, in Los Angeles prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
"We have a great group of finalists coaches for the FWAA's 2022 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award,” said Steve Richardson, FWAA Executive Director. “All are winners and have done outstanding jobs at their respective schools in the mold of one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. It is our pleasure to support this award and Coach Rob's legacy along with the Allstate Sugar Bowl. We greatly appreciate the Sugar Bowl's partnership."
The FWAA has presented a coaching award since the 1957 season when Ohio State's Woody Hayes was named the first recipient. The FWAA coaching award is named after the late Robinson, a coaching legend at Grambling State University for 55 seasons.
A closer look at the 2022 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year finalists:
Sonny Dykes, TCU: Dykes, a second-time finalist, has the Horned Frogs (12-1) playing for a national championship in his first season since coming over from SMU, where he was an Eddie Robinson Award finalist in 2019 in his last 10-win season (10-3). He’s just the fourth coach since 1996 to get to 12-0 in his first season at a school. TCU has five wins over opponents that were ranked at the time, tied with Tennessee for most in the FBS. Behind quarterback Max Duggan, a reserve to the start the season and now a Heisman Trophy finalist, TCU was the first Big 12 team to go 9-0 in conference play since Oklahoma in 2016. Dykes is the second TCU coach to become a finalist – former head coach Gary Patterson was a four-time finalist, winning the award in 2009 and '14.
Mike Elko, Duke: Elko is a first-time finalist and Duke’s first since David Cutcliffe in 2013. Elko led Duke to an 8-4 record thus far and a tie for second place in the ACC’s Coastal Division after being picked to finish last in the preseason and with a Military Bowl game vs. UCF yet to play. Duke was 3-9 and 0-8 in the ACC last season. Duke is tied for second nationally in turnover margin at plus-1.17 one year after finishing last in the ACC in that category. The Blue Devils had nine players earn All-ACC honors and their 5-3 record in ACC play was the program's best league mark since 2014. The Blue Devils have not had an Eddie Robinson Award winner.
Willie Fritz, Tulane: Fritz coached Tulane (11-2) to the AAC title, only its third conference title in program history, and up to No. 16 in the CFP Rankings that also earned a New Year’s Six bowl berth. Tulane’s first AAC Coach of the Year and only its second conference coach of the year, Fritz led the Green Wave to its fourth 10-win campaign in program history and the first since 1998. Tulane’s seven conference wins are its most since 1934, highlighted by a historic win at then-No. 23 Cincinnati that stopped its 32-game home win streak and set up its conference title shot. Tulane’s only prior Eddie Robinson finalist was Tommy Bowden in 1998.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan: Harbaugh is a two-time Eddie Robinson Award finalist and returns from last season’s list. The other came while at Stanford in 2010. Harbaugh kept the Wolverines (13-0) near the top of the national rankings all season with an old-school power rushing attack. The Wolverines are fifth in the FBS in scoring defense (13.4 ppg) and seventh in scoring offense (40.1 ppg). Michigan’s first outright Big Ten East Division championship was clinched and punctuated by a dominant 45-23 win at rival and then-No. 2 Ohio State to end the regular season. Michigan then claimed its first back-to-back conference titles since 2003-04 with a 43-22 win over Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game. Harbaugh is Michigan’s fourth coach to be a finalist and its first since Brady Hoke in 2011. Michigan’s only previous winner was Bo Schembechler, the FWAA Coach of the Year award in 1969.
Lincoln Riley, USC: This is Riley’s third time to be among the finalists, the other two coming in 2017 and '18 while at Oklahoma. Riley’s 11 wins (11-2) ties for the most by a USC head coach in his regular-season debut, matching Howard Jones (1925) and John Robinson (1976). The Trojans returned only five starters on offense in 2022 but true to Riley’s explosive coaching style now are among the FBS’ leaders in total offense (5th, 499.8 ypg) and scoring offense (3rd, 41.1 ppg). Quarterback Caleb Williams, who came to USC along with Riley from Oklahoma this season, is a Heisman finalist. USC has not had an Eddie Robinson finalist since Pete Carroll in 2008, the last of his four finalist bids. Riley is the Trojans’ third coach to reach this stage – John McKay was a two-time winner split 10 years apart in 1972 and '62.
Kirby Smart, Georgia: Smart is a three-time finalist, repeating off last season’s list for undefeated and top-ranked Georgia (13-0) and also from the 2017 season. Smart is the sixth coach in the last seven seasons to repeat as a finalist the year following winning a national championship. Smart took the Bulldogs to their fifth SEC Championship Game appearance in his seven seasons at Georgia and their first SEC title-game win since 2017. Georgia is among the top 11 nationally in both scoring defense (2nd, 12.8) and scoring offense (11th, 39.2). Smart has developed quarterback Stetson Bennett, a former walk-on, to Heisman-finalist status with a 27-3 career record and playing for another national title. Smart is Georgia’s third coach to be a finalist (also Jim Donnan in 1997). Vince Dooley is the only previous winner as the FWAA Coach of the Year in 1980.
Jon Sumrall, Troy: Sumrall is a first-time finalist for the award and Troy’s first as well in his debut season with the Trojans. Troy (11-2) won its Sun Belt-record seventh conference title last week with a 45-26 home win over Coastal Carolina in the SBC Championship Game. The win was Troy's 10th straight, its longest winning streak since 1995, and tied for the third longest active streak in the country. Troy broke into the CFP rankings this week at No. 24. True to Sumrall's background on defense, Troy allowed the fifth-fewest points in SBC history (202) during the regular season and is second in the FBS allowing only 3.17 points per game in the fourth quarter. Troy's last loss came Sept. 17 on a final-play Hail Mary pass at App State. A Sun Belt coach is among the Eddie Robinson Award finalists for the fourth consecutive season.
Jeff Traylor, UTSA: Traylor repeats as a finalist with his second bid in consecutive seasons as UTSA’s lone Eddie Robinson Award finalist. UTSA (11-2) won its 10th straight game last week, 48-27 over North Texas in the Conference USA Championship Game, marking consecutive 10-win seasons (12-2 last year) for Traylor. The Roadrunners are only the third team to repeat as C-USA champions. It’s the second-longest win streak in school history and ties Troy for the third-longest active streak nationally. UTSA is ranked in both major polls and earned the No. 25 spot in final CFP rankings. UTSA has won 26 of its last 31 games and Traylor is currently 30-9 at the school.
The Eddie Robinson Award is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses college football's most prestigious awards. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 25 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 100 Hall of Fame players, 51 Hall of Fame coaches and 20 Heisman Trophy winners in its 88-year history. The 89th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic, which will feature the Kansas State Wildcats and Alabama Crimson Tide, is scheduled to be played on Dec. 31. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, awards, scholarships and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors thousands of student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.2 billion into the local economy in the last decade. For more information, visit allstatesugarbowl.org
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or firstname.lastname@example.org.