By staff
Chattanooga, TN (Sports Network) – Wofford head coach Mike Ayers was named the 17th winner of the Eddie Robinson Award tonight at the Division I-AA College Football Awards held in Chattanooga, TN on the eve of the I-AA national championship. The Robinson Award is presented annually to the top head coach in I-AA football by The Sports Network, the nation’s premier real time sports wire service, whose Internet web site, www.sportsnetwork.com, is one of the most viewed sports sites in the world.

Ayers guided a team that had lost 13 starters and 19 letter winners from the 2002 squad, helping the Terriers finish 10-1 in the regular season with a perfect 8-0 Southern Conference mark. After an opening week loss at I-A Air Force, Wofford reeled off 10 straight wins to end the year, including key SoCon wins against Georgia Southern (20-14), Appalachian State (24-14), The Citadel (42-16), and Furman (7-6), among others. The Terriers became the first Southern Conference team since 1998 to finish with an 8-0 record in league play, and earned its first-ever I-AA playoff bid in the process. Wofford finished the season ranked No. 2 in the country, earned the third seed in the 2003 postseason field, and advanced to the national semifinals.

Said Ayers, “Coach Robinson is someone I have respected throughout my career. I am humbled and honored to accept this award. It's something that our players, staff, fans, supporters, and all of Wofford College can share. They've made it possible. I'm just blessed to be surrounded by great people.”

In his 16th year as head coach at Wofford, the 55-year-old Ayers has led the program from the Division II ranks to become among the elite of the ultra-competitive Southern Conference. Wofford, which is Division I’s smallest football-playing institution with an enrollment of 1,100 students, joined the SoCon in 1997 and has fashioned winning records in four of the past five years under Ayers’ tutelage. Prior to taking the helm at Wofford in 1988, Ayers served as the head coach at East Tennessee State for three seasons. As a head coach, the Cincinnati native is 113-97-1, including 102-76-1 at the helm of the Terriers.

Ayers is the third coach from the Southern Conference to win the Eddie Robinson Award, and first since Georgia Southern’s Paul Johnson in 1998. The Citadel’s Charlie Taaffe won the Robinson in 1992, and was the first SoCon coach to receive the honor.

Ayers received 24 first-place votes and 232 points from the panel of 91 I-AA sports information directors and selected media. Following Ayers in the voting was Southern Illinois head coach Jerry Kill, who earned 23 first-place votes and 214 total points. Colgate’s Dick Biddle was third with 18 first-place votes and 196 total points.

The Eddie Robinson Award was established in 1987 by The Sports Network. The Award is named for legendary head coach Eddie Robinson, who retired in 1997 after 56 years at Grambling State University.

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