Here’s how quickly things can change in college football. Scott Wachenheim entered the 2019 season on the fifth year of a five-year contract as VMI’s coach with a record of 6-38 (2-29 Southern Conference). The Keydets had lost 26 consecutive games to Division I opponents and 22 straight league games.
On Tuesday, Wachenheim was named the winner of the Stats Perform FCS Eddie Robinson Award, which annually goes to the top coach in the Football Championship Subdivision. A 40-member national media panel voted.
The Keydets in 2019 went 5-7 (4-4 SoCon), with two losses to FBS opponents (Marshall, Army), and that progress earned Wachenheim a three-year contract extension. VMI during the FCS spring season won the Southern Conference title, its first championship since 1977, and made its first appearance in the FCS playoffs. The Keydets finished 6-2, their first winning record since 1981.
“At the beginning, I always thought we could do it. I believed that,” said Wachenheim, who completed his sixth year with a 31-24 FCS playoff loss at James Madison. “[But] I go for some early-morning walks and there were some times where I was praying to my Lord and saying, ‘Lord, why’d you bring me here? Did you bring me here to fail?’ ”
After much introspection, Wachenheim said his strength was renewed and his desire to press on was increased. The only other state coach to win the award, which was first presented in 1987, is JMU’s Mickey Matthews (1999, 2008).