In his 11th year as Lehigh’s football coach, Andy Coen led the Mountain Hawks to its third Patriot League Championship season since 2010, and his success was recognized.
Coen was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year for his success this season and is one of the fifteen finalists for the FCS Eddie Robinson award for Coach of the Year.
Boasting an overall season record of 9-3, a Patriot League record of 6-0 and a win in the Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry game, the 2016 football season was filled with more achievements than in years past.
“This particular team I think did a really great job of leadership,” Coen said.
The leadership and efforts made by coaching staff and players were rewarded with recognition by both the Patriot League and the American Football Coaches Association.
This was his second Patriot League Coach of the Year award in his coaching career as he first won it in 2010. He also finished seventh for the FCS Eddie Robinson award the following year.
“Any time you win a coach award, it’s because you have good players that help you get there,” Coen said. “It’s very gratifying to me because it is an award given by your peers and that means a lot to me.”
Senior captain Nick Shafnisky said leadership and respect played a large part in the team’s success this year. Leadership shown by the coaching staff and a sense of family fostered by seniors shaped and guided the overall path to a championship season.
“We’re a big family,” Shafnisky said. “Coach (Coen) treats each one of us like a son.”
This season, players participated extensively in Lehigh Athletics’ leadership training programs to build upon foundations of previous seasons.
“I think this group really did a great job from a leadership perspective,” Coen said. “As individuals and collectively as a team — that’s what made our team really successful.”
Starting the season off with two losses, Coen described how important it was for the team to decide what type of season they would have. Players could either accept losing or find the ways to get the job done.
During the third week of the season, the Mountain Hawks played UPenn and ultimately broke their losing streak with a 49-28 victory.
“We were tied at halftime, and then we wound up blowing them out at the end of the game,” Coen said. “That’s really when things started to change for us in a positive way.”
From then on, Coen led the team to win nine straight games in a row, including the rivalry game against Lafayette. Shafnisky called this year the epitome of what a college football season is about.
Despite falling in the first round of the FCS playoffs, Lehigh’s season was a success as the Mountain Hawks achieved their ultimate goal of winning a Patriot League title.
“This team is a championship team,” Coen said. “And they deserve to be champions.”