VERMILLION, S.D. (USD) — South Dakota head football coach Bob Nielson is one of 20 finalists for the Eddie Robinson Award which is given annually to the national coach of the year in FCS football and presented by FedEx Ground.
Nielson has orchestrated the best turnaround in FCS football this season. He took a Coyote team picked to finish ninth in its own conference to the No. 3 overall seed in this week’s FCS playoffs. It is the first top-eight seed in program history. The Coyotes’ No. 3 ranking in this week’s polls are their highest at the FCS level.
South Dakota has won a program-record nine FCS games, an improvement of six wins from a year ago which is the highest win differential among FCS teams this year. Included in the wins are three against top-10 teams and four against nationally-ranked foes. The team’s only losses this season are to Missouri, a top-10 team at the FBS level, and No. 1 South Dakota State.
Nielson is a three-time national coach of the year recipient. He was Football Gazette’s NCAA Division III Coach of the Year in 1998 when he led Wisconsin-Eau Claire to the national semifinals. He was NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year in 2008 and 2010 when he led Minnesota Duluth to national titles.
Nielson’s 227 career wins are second-most among active FCS coaches and eighth-most among all active NCAA football coaches. He is taking his 13th team to the NCAA playoffs in 31 seasons as a head coach. This is his fourth time leading a team to the FCS playoffs.
Eddie Robinson Award Finalists
Mark Ferrante, Villanova
Greg Gattuso, Albany
Bobby Hauck, Montana
Clay Hendrix, Furman
Tre Lamb, Gardner-Webb
Tim Murphy, Harvard
Bob Nielson, South Dakota
Trei Oliver, North Carolina Central
Tim Rebowe, Nicholls
Danny Rocco, VMI
Jimmy Rogers, South Dakota State
Pete Rossomando, Lamar
Jerry Schmitt, Duquesne
Larry Scott, Howard
Willie Simmons, Florida A&M
Todd Stepsis, Drake
John Troxell, Lafayette
Scotty Walden, Austin Peay
Todd Whitten, Tarleton
Chris Wilkerson, Eastern Illinois