GAINESVIILLE, FLA (FWAA) – Liberty's Jamey Chadwell has been selected as the 2023 Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach of the Year Award recipient after leading Liberty to a 13-1 season. Chadwell lifted a good program to historic heights in Lynchburg, Virginia, the Flames reaching a New Year’s Six Bowl for the first time in program history before sufferng their only loss of the season to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach Award, presented by Chris Doering Mortgage, will be given to Chadwell at a reception on Feb. 26 at Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille in Gainesville. The reception will also include presentations of the Legend Coach Award to former Georgia and Miami, (Fla.) Coach Mark Richt; Offensive Freshman Player of the Year Award to quarterback Noah Fifita of Arizona; and Defensive Freshman Player of the Year Award to defensive back Dillon Thieneman of Purdue. For more information on attending or sponsoring the reception, please contact Tricia Garzon of the JAG Agency at 352-214-2331.
Chadwell now joins previous winners Shane Beamer from South Carolina and Josh Heupel from Tennessee who shared the Spurrier Award after the 2021 season, and Sonny Dykes of TCU who won last year.
“I’ve been blessed with having a staff that’s been with me a lot of different places,” said the 47-year-old Chadwell, who was the 2020 FWAA/Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year recipient at Coastal Carolina, his previous head coaching position. “We know what we value.” Chadwell was also one of 12 finalists for the 2023 FWAA/Eddie RobinsonCoach of the Year Award won by former Washington Coach Kalen DeBoer..
In 2023, Liberty led the nation with 293.3 yards per game on the ground while winning Conference USA in its first season in the league. Chadwell complimented former Flames’ coach Hugh Freeze for leaving a healthy culture, Liberty posting 8-5 seasons the two years before he took over the job. "There was a great expectation of winning and a great expectation for work that was already established,” Chadwell said. “When you take over something like that, it helps.”
At the same time, taking over a winning program has its challenges.
“They’ve won, and they’ve won a different way than you are doing it, so it can take more for them to trust your way of doing it,” Chadwell said. “You have to be consistent in what you do and what you say, and I told them I would earn their trust and be consistent with what we’re doing.”
Chadwell, once a quarterback at East Tennessee State, has learned the business well, including his time working Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina camps around the time Chadwell was hired as head coach at Charleston Southern (2013-2016).
“I grew up in Tennessee, and I went to East Tennessee State,” said Chadwell, who played at the Southern Conference school located in Spurrier’s Tennessee hometown of Johnson City. “I wear a visor because of Steve Spurrier.”
Spurrier appreciates Chadwell attributing his choice of headgear to him.
“Several coaches have said that, and it’s always an honor when they say it, I always appreciate it,” Spurrier said. “When I got to Florida in ’90 I wore a visor on the golf course all the time, and no coaches I knew of were wearing one on the sideline.” Spurrier added, “My philosophy has always been that if you want to do something, you can do it like everyone else or do it a little bit differently. The visor was a little different back then.”
The First-Year Coach Award was named after Spurrier because Spurrier, a Heisman Trophy winner and College Football Hall of Famer known affectionately as “The Head Ball Coach,” made immediate improvement at his coaching stops.
Spurrier’s Southeastern Conference legend grew after he took his alma mater to a 9-2 record and an unofficial SEC Championship in his first season at the helm of the Florida Gators in 1990. Fifteen years later, during his first season leading South Carolina, his Gamecocks earned a 7-5 record along with the program’s first win over Tennessee in Knoxville and their first win over Florida since 1939.
Chris Doering Mortgage, based in Gainesville, Fla., was established in April 2007 as a residential lending company providing mortgage products including conventional, FHA, USDA, and VA loans. The branch is a division of MortgageAdvisors.com – 3940 NW 16th Blvd., Suite A, Gainesville, FL 32605 – NMLS 70168/1937321. FHA Lender ID 2631500094. For more information, visit ChrisDoeringMortgage.com. College football analyst Chris Doering, a former wide receiver for Coach Spurrier both in college and the NFL, serves as the branch manager.
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.