College football: Jackrabbits head coach Jimmy Rogers wins national recognition with Eddie Robinson Award

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To simply say South Dakota State has earned its undefeated season under first-year coach Jimmy Rogers feels like an understatement.

Wearing a bull’s-eye as the defending Division I FCS national champions, the Jackrabbits have handled every challenge, and then some, while maintaining the No. 1 national ranking and earning the top seed in the playoffs.

It’s all led to Rogers being voted by a national panel as the 2023 recipient of the Eddie Robinson Award, which honors the FCS national coach of the year and is presented by FedEx Ground.

Now in its 37th season, the award is named for legendary Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson. Rogers, who was one of 20 finalists, will be honored at the Stats Perform FCS National Awards Banquet on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas - the eve of the FCS championship game.

As of Oct. 21, South Dakota State was the only FCS team out of 128 overall without a loss, and it hasn’t changed since then. The Jackrabbits swept their way to a second straight Missouri Valley Football Conference title, and their schedule didn’t even include the three lowest finishers in the 12-team standings. Add in a victory over non-conference power Montana State and Rogers’ squad defeated six Top 25 teams - two more than any other FCS team - while going 11-0.

South Dakota State added a seventh Top 25 win by shutting out Mercer 41-0 in the second round of the playoffs this past Saturday. It was the Jackrabbits’ 26th straight triumph since last season, matching the third-longest winning streak in FCS history.

Rogers was a linebacker and team captain on SDSU’s first FCS playoff qualifier in 2009 as well as a 10-year assistant coach in the program and the defensive coordinator of the 2022 national championship team. He was elevated to head coach after his mentor John Stiegelmeier’s retirement last January. Stiegelmeier was the 2022 recipient of the Eddie Robinson Award, making this the second year in a row a Jackrabbit head coach has been chosen for the honor.

In Rogers’ first season guiding the program, South Dakota State is the only team to rank in the top 10 of the FCS in average points and yards gained per game and fewest points and yards allowed per game.

Like the Robinson Award, the winners of the Walter Payton Award (FCS offensive player of the year), Buck Buchanan Award (FCS defensive player of the year), Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman player of the year) and FedEx Ground Doris Robinson Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award will be honored at the national awards banquet.

2023 Eddie Robinson Award voting results

Following is a breakdown of the voting results. A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote four points, a third-place vote three points, a fourth-place vote two points and a fifth-place vote one point. The final number is the combined point total.

1. Jimmy Rogers, South Dakota State: 16-8-8-2-4-144

2. Greg Gattuso, UAlbany: 9-10-11-6-0-130

3. Bobby Hauck, Montana: 10-12-7-3-1-126

4. Bob Nielson, South Dakota: 8-7-9-3-4-105

5. Willie Simmons, Florida A&M: 3-1-4-5-5-46

6. Chris Wilkerson, Eastern Illinois: 2-2-4-5-4-44

7. John Troxell, Lafayette: 0-5-1-6-6-41

8. Clay Hendrix, Furman: 1-2-5-5-2-40

9. Scotty Walden, Austin Peay: 2-2-0-6-8-38

10. Trei Oliver, North Carolina Central: 0-1-3-7-3-30

11. Mark Ferrante, Villanova: 0-2-1-2-6-21

12. Todd Stepsis, Drake: 1-1-0-4-2-19

13. Larry Scott, Howard: 1-2-0-0-3-16

14. Pete Rossomando, Lamar: 2-0-0-0-1-11

15. Todd Whitten, Tarleton: 0-1-1-0-2-9

16. Tre Lamb, Gardner-Webb: 1-0-0-1-1-8

17. Tim Murphy, Harvard: 0-0-1-1-0-5

18. Danny Rocco, VMI: 0-0-1-0-1-4

19. Tim Rebowe, Nicholls: 0-0-0-0-2-2

20. Jerry Schmitt, Duquesne: 0-0-0-0-1-1