DALLAS (FWAA) – The Football Writers Association of America, in conjunction with the Allstate Sugar Bowl, announced 12 finalists for the 2023 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award on Tuesday. The award winner this season will be chosen from among a list that includes one repeat finalist and two other finalists from previous seasons, including one who is now a nine-time finalist. Eight of the finalists won conference championships this year, including three who will compete in the upcoming College Football Playoff; seven of the honorees are first-time finalists.
The finalists are David Braun of Northwestern; Jamey Chadwell of Liberty; Kalen DeBoer of Washington; Eliah Drinkwitz of Missouri; Jedd Fisch of Arizona; Rhett Lashlee of SMU; Chuck Martin of Miami (Ohio); Mike Norvell of Florida State; Barry Odom of UNLV; Nick Saban of Alabama; Steve Sarkisian of Texas; and Jon Sumrall of Troy. Sumrall is the only coach among the 12 to earn the honor in back-to-back seasons.
The 12 finalists have been placed on a ballot which has been sent to the entire FWAA membership today. The 2023 recipient will be announced on Wed., Dec. 20. The official presentation will be at a reception Sat., Jan. 6, 2024, in Houston, the site of the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Of immediate note are the head coaches at three of the College Football Playoff qualifiers who won conference championships, DeBoer (Pac-12), Saban (SEC) and Sarkisian (Big 12). DeBoer and Sarkisian will face each other Jan. 1, 2024, in the one of the CFP Semifinals at the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Saban, a two-time Eddie Robinson Award winner at LSU (2003) and previously at Alabama (2008), takes on Michigan in the other semifinal in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Prudential. Saban has been a finalist now seven times at Alabama and eight times overall.
Chadwell, who won the Eddie Robinson Award while at Coastal Carolina in 2020, enters bowl season 13-0 and with the Conference USA championship in tow. SMU’s Lashlee (American Athletic), Martin (MAC), Norvell (ACC) and Sumrall (Sun Belt) also guided conference championship teams.
“The Sugar Bowl is honored to partner with the FWAA to not only recognize the national coach of the year, but also to honor the memory of a Louisiana legend in Coach Robinson,” said Richard Briede, president of the Sugar Bowl. “We look forward to watching all of our finalists in action through the bowl games and the Playoff and we’re excited to be honoring the winner in Houston at the CFP National Championship.”
“What an extremely exciting Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year ballot this is for the 2023 season with all 10 FBS conferences being represented. It's always welcoming to see past award winners back on the ballot with Nick Saban and Jamey Chadwell,” said Eddie Robinson III, grandson of the legendary coach. “All 12 candidates appear to be deserving of earnest consideration for the 'Eddie' award.”
"For a quarter of a century, the FWAA has greatly enjoyed its relationship with first Coach Rob and then his family in generating finalists and the winner of this most prestigious coaching award," said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. "We believe this group of finalists will eventually produce an excellent recipient in the tradition of this award."
The FWAA has presented a coaching award since the 1957 season when Ohio State's Woody Hayes was named the first recipient. In 1997, the FWAA coaching award was named after the late Robinson, a coaching legend at Grambling State University for 55 seasons.
A closer look at the 2023 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year finalists:
David Braun, Northwestern: Braun is a first-time finalist after leading the Wildcats to seven wins, a plus-six improvement from last season that is the largest such mark in the FBS this season. Northwestern’s 5-4 mark in Big Ten play is its most wins by a first-year head coach in program history. The seven wins so far tie Coastal Carolina’s Tim Beck for the most by a first-year head coach in the FBS this season. Northwestern closed the regular season with a 45-43 win over Illinois to extend a now-three-game win streak, its longest since 2020. The Wildcats have had two previous Eddie Robinson Award winners in Gary Barnett (1995) and Alex Agase (1970).
Jamey Chadwell, Liberty: Chadwell has once again caught attention guiding an underdog into national acclaim, this time guiding No. 22 Liberty to its first-ever FBS conference title with a 49-35 win and the 2023 CUSA Championship. Liberty is on a school-record win streak at 13-0 and has the FBS’ top rushing game (302.9 ypg) as part of its FBS third-best total offense attack at 514.9 ypg. It fell 18 yards short of setting a school record with 712 total yards in the CUSA Championship Game. Chadwell was the 2020 Eddie Robinson Award winner during Coastal Carolina’s underdog run to the Sun Belt championship that season and is Liberty’s first FWAA finalist for a postseason coaching award.
Kalen DeBoer, Washington: DeBoer is a first-time finalist after guiding the Huskies to the College Football Playoff with an undefeated 13-0 record with one of the nation’s most dynamic players, Michael Penix Jr., at the helm of the offense. The 13 wins are a school record for a single season and make UW the first Pac-12 team since USC in 2004 to start a season 13-0. The Huskies have won 20 straight games dating to last season, now the FBS’ longest active win streak. The win streak is UW’s longest since winning 22 straight from 1990-92. Washington has a previous Eddie Robinson Award winner in Don James (1991) and a previous finalist in Chris Petersen (2016).
Eliah Drinkwitz, Missouri: This is the second finalist nod for Drinkwitz, who earned his previous nomination in 2019 while at App State. Drinkwitz has Missouri at 10-2 heading into the postseason, only the sixth time for the Tigers to achieve 10 wins during the regular season. Seven of Missouri’s wins have been by double-digit margins. The Tigers had their best scoring output since 2020 in their most recent game, a 48-14 win over Arkansas two weeks ago. Missouri, runner-up to Georgia in the SEC East, has yet to trail at the half this season. The Tigers have never had an Eddie Robinson Award winner but have previous finalists in Gary Pinkel (2013 and '07) and Larry Smith (1998).
Jedd Fisch, Arizona: Fisch is a first-time finalist and has Arizona (9-3) riding a six-game win streak for the first time since 1998. Placing third in one of the Pac-12’s most competitive season ever, the Wildcats’ nine wins thus far are their most since going 10-4 in 2014. This is only the seventh time in program history for Arizona to win nine or more games in a season. Fisch and Arizona have been especially strong on the road where they have won four Pac-12 games away from home for the first time since 1998. Void of a winner in its past, Arizona’s only other Eddie Robinson Award finalist was Dick Tomey in 1998.
Rhett Lashlee, SMU: Lashlee is a first-time finalist and the coach of one of the country’s hottest teams. SMU has been dominant all season long on both sides of the ball and is among the FBS' top 20 in numerous categories after winning its first outright conference championship in 41 years. The Mustangs’ 528 points scored and 40.6 points per game are the second-highest in program history. SMU has scored at least 55 points four times this season, the most in program history for a single season, and posting an average margin of victory of 28.9 points (45.9-17.0) in AAC play, the season's largest margin for any team in conference play. SMU's only other Eddie Robinson Award finalist was Sonny Dykes in 2019.
Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio): Martin is a first-time finalist and the first coach at Miami (Ohio) to be an Eddie Robinson Award finalist after guiding the RedHawks (11-2) to the MAC title with an upset of once-beaten Toledo in the championship game. It’s Miami’s first MAC title since 2019 and 17th overall. Most recently the RedHawks beat No. 23 Toledo 23-14 for the conference title, ending Toledo’s 11-game win streak and defeating an AP-ranked team for the first time since 2012.
Mike Norvell, Florida State: A second-time finalist for the award, Norvell led the Seminoles through a 13-0 season to an ACC championship, yet were not selected for the College Football Playoff. The 13-win season is the third in school history. FSU has now won 16 ACC titles since joining the conference in 1992. The 'Noles enter the Capital One Orange Bowl on a 19-game win streak. Norvell was previously a finalist in 2019 at Memphis and is just the fourth Eddie Robinson Award finalist from Florida State. No FSU coach has been named the FWAA National Coach of the Year. Jimbo Fisher was a two-time finalist in 2013 and '14 and the late Bobby Bowden was a 1997 finalist.
Barry Odom, UNLV: The first-year coach has breathed new life into UNLV, earning a spot in the Mountain West Conference title game and entering the posteason with a 9-4 record. The Rebels have won nine games for the first time since 1984 and for just the sixth time in school history. After losing to Michigan, UNLV surged winning eight of nine games with only a seven-point loss at Fresno State. The Rebels are second in the nation with 37 rushing touchdowns. Odom is the school's first Eddie Robinson Award finalist.
Nick Saban Alabama: The most decorated coach among the finalists, Saban is an nine-time award finalist overall, an eight-time finalist at Alabama and two-time winner (2003 LSU, 2008 Alabama). His Crimson Tide (12-1) overcame an early-season home loss to Texas and regrouped to win the SEC West before ending Georgia's SEC-record 29-game winning streak in the SEC Championship Game and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. The SEC title is the Tide's 30th overall and ninth under Saban, who is in his 17th year in Tuscaloosa. Alabama's Playoff appearance will be its eighth in the format's 10-year history.
Steve Sarkisian, Texas: In guiding the Longhorns to the Big 12 title in their final season in the league, Sarkisian has earned his first finalist nod for the award. Texas will make its first appearance in the College Football Playoff with a 12-1 record having won the Big 12 title for the first time since 2009, also the last time they won 12 games in a season. The Longhorns powered through a midseason injury to starting quarterback Quinn Ewers to finish the regular season with six straight wins. Texas outscored opponents 470-228. Only Darrell Royal has won this award as a Texas coach, in 1961 and '63. Sarkisian joins Mack Brown as Texas' only other finalist. Brown was a three-time finalist in 2005, '08 and '09.
Jon Sumrall, Troy: Sumrall is a second-time finalist as the lone returning finalist from a year ago. The Trojans (11-2) are fresh off the school’s record eighth Sun Belt Conference title after defeating App State, 49-23. The win was Troy’s 10th in a row, marking a second straight season winning 10 straight games. Troy has outscored its opponents 303-101 over its past nine games. Troy will face Duke in the 76 Birmingham Bowl as the first-ever Sun Belt program to play a bowl game against a team from a Power Five conference.
The Eddie Robinson Award is a member of the National College Football Awards Association. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA includes college football’s most prestigious awards and its 24 awards have honored more than 900 recipients dating back to 1935. For more information about the NCFAA and its award programs, visit the redesigned NCFAA.org.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 103 Hall of Fame players, 52 Hall of Fame coaches and 21 Heisman Trophy winners in its 89-year history. 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 nearly $2.4 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 email@example.com.
2023 Eddie Robinson Award Finalists
David Braun, Northwestern
Jamey Chadwell, Liberty
Kalen DeBoer, Washington
Eliah Drinkwitz, Missouri
Jedd Fisch, Arizona
Rhett Lashlee, SMU
Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio)
Mike Norvell, Florida State
Barry Odom, UNLV
Nick Saban Alabama
Steve Sarkisian, Texas
Jon Sumrall, Troy