On Friday, Widener University in Chester, Pa., made it official, hiring former Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Valdosta State University head football coach Mike Kelly as the school’s new head football coach.
The Widener Pride, a team that has won two national titles and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III Tournament in 2012, will get itself an experience head who has most recently been working in the player procurement and scouting industry.
Widener University, meanwhile, is a private, metropolitan university comprised of eight schools and colleges. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve approximately 6,300 students. It competes in Division III NCAA football.
Kelly has more than 30 years of coaching experience at the high school, collegiate and professional levels. He will take over for Bobby Acosta who resigned earlier this month to take an assistant coaching position at Syracuse University.
In addition to his coaching experience, Kelly has always been active in the community, having served as the honorary chairperson for the Canadian Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation of Canada. A former faculty member in the sport management program at Drexel University from 2005 to 2008, Kelly was recognized by the university’s Student/Athletes Committee with the Make a Difference Award for outstanding mentoring and teaching.
“We are very fortunate to hire a coach with Mike Kelly’s vast football experience and a demonstrated commitment to the community and teaching and mentoring college students,” said Widener Athletic Director Jack Shafer in a written statement. “With his background, we look forward to continuing the success of our football team both on the gridiron and in the classroom.”
At the collegiate level, Kelly served as head football coach at NCAA Division II Valdosta State University in Georgia from 1997 to 1999 where he led the team to a 16-15 record and coached three All-America and 23 All-Gulf South Conference players. He also served as associate head coach at San Francisco State University (1990-92), offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio (1987-90), offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach at Ohio Wesleyan University (1986-87), running backs coach at Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio (1983-86) and wide receivers coach at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (1982-83).
Since leaving Valdosta State, Kelly spent most of his career in the professional ranks, serving as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League in 2009. The Bombers, a struggling franchise coming off a dreadful season, went 7-11 with Kelly at the helm and only missed the playoffs after losing the final game of the season. He was fired due mostly to an ugly relationship with the local media.
Earlier in his CFL career, Kelly also served as offensive coordinator for the Blue Bombers (1992-96), offensive consultant and NFL Scout for the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos (2000) and Eskimos receivers coach (2008).
In the National Football League, Kelly was a scout and offensive assistant coach for the Philadelphia Eagles (2001-02), a personnel assistant with the Washington Redskins (2003-05) and a game advance consultant for the New York Giants (2010). He also served as offensive coordinator for the Orlando Rage of the now defunct XFL in 2000.
“I’m excited to be coaching again at the collegiate level and leading a program so rich in history and success,” Kelly said in a written statement. “Widener is about winning championships, developing young leaders and serving the community, and I look forward to continuing those traditions.”
Kelly played collegiately at Division III Bluffton University in Ohio where he was a three-year letter winner at quarterback. He received a bachelor’s degree in health, physical education and recreation from Bluffton in 1980, and went on to earn his master’s degree in secondary school administration from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 1983.
Widener opens its 2014 season on September 5 at Rowan University.
(With files from Widener University)