IRVING, Texas (Jan. 9, 2024) – In front of more than 1,500 coaches at the 2024 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Annual Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, the National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame presented the NFF divisional national championship trophies to the coaches of the 2023 winning teams on Jan. 8.
“Each year at the AFCA convention, the NFF presents the championship trophies to the coaches who have taken their teams to the pinnacle of success,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “It is fitting that we present the trophies in front of their peers, the very people who know the commitment, dedication and effort that goes into winning a national championship. We are extremely pleased to join with AFCA Executive Director Todd Berry to continue this tradition of honoring the nation’s most successful coaches each year at the convention.”
NCAA Football Championship Subdivision – John F. Kennedy Trophy
South Dakota State University – Coach Jimmy Rodgers
Head Coach Jimmy Rodgers steered No. 1 South Dakota State (15-0) to a second consecutive (and second overall) FCS national championship Jan. 7 with a 23-3 victory over No. 2 Montana (13-2) at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. Rodgers, who was the defensive coordinator last year and replacing 26-year head coach John Stiegelmeier, guided his team to a defense masterpiece, holding the Grizzlies to a single field goal. The South Dakota State defense, led by Adam Bock with 11 tackles, limited Montana to 259 total yards on offense. Quarterback Mark Gronowski, who claimed MVP honors for a second consecutive year, threw for 175 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 61 yards and another touchdown. Isaiah Davis rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Jadon Janke amassed 55-receiving yards, including a touchdown catch.
NCAA Division II – Asa S. Bushnell Trophy
Harding University (AR) – Coach Paul Simmons
Head coach Paul Simmons and No. 2 Harding (15-0) claimed the school’s first national title in program history Dec. 16 with a 38-7 win over No. 1 Colorado School of Mines (14-1) in the NCAA Division II National Championship game at McKinney ISD Stadium in Texas. In his seventh season, with the Bison, Simmons has amassed a 65-13 overall record. Harding’s offense rushed for 502 yards and five touchdowns. The defense had six sacks on the day. Fullback Blake Delacruz rushed 27 times for a NCAA Division II championship record 212 yards. Running back Braden Jay carried 11 times for 161 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Jhalen Spicer and quarterback Cole Keylon added rushing touchdowns, and Keylon completed both of his passing attempts to wide receiver Roland Wallace for 46 yards. Harding’s defense had 10 tackles for loss. Senior defensive lineman Nathaniel Wallace had two sacks, sophomore linebacker Clark Griffin led Harding with six tackles, including 2.0 tackles for loss, and defensive back Darian Dunlap-Johnson had four tackles and an interception.
NCAA Division III – Amos Alonzo Stagg Trophy
The State University of New York at Cortland – Coach Curt Fitzpatrick
Head Coach Curt Fitzpatrick led No. 11 Cortland (14-1) to the Red Dragons’ first Division III football crown in school history Dec. 15 with a thrilling 38-37 victory against No. 1 North Central College [IL] (14-1) in the 50th Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl at Salem Football Stadium in Virginia. The Red Dragons sealed the win by stopping a North Central two-point conversion with 1:20 remaining on the clock. Cortland QB Zac Boyes, who claimed game MVP honors, completed 26-of-34 passes for 349 yards and five touchdowns while rushing 16 times for 123 yards. Wide receiver Cole Burgess caught 11 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Boyes also connected with wide receivers Joe Iadevaio eight times for 95 yards and two scores and JJ Laap twice for 75 yards and a touchdown. Linebacker Jaden Martinez led Cortland with 10 tackles, including a sack, and a pass breakup, and defensive back Luke Winslow made nine tackles. Linebacker Jack Winey recorded seven tackles, including a sack that resulted in a fumble, which he recovered.
NAIA – Dwight D. Eisenhower Trophy
Keiser University (FL) – Coach Doug Socha
Head Coach Doug Socha guided No. 3 Keiser (12-2) to a 31-21 win over No. 1 Northwestern College [IA] (14-1) in the NAIA Football National Championship Dec. 18 at Durham County Memorial Stadium in North Carolina, marking the first NAIA title in Seahawks program history. Socha helped launch the Keiser program in 2018, and he has led the program to five playoff appearances in his six years as the head coach, including facing Northwestern in last year’s title game. Socha’s overall record now stands at 55-15. The Seahawks rushed for 373 yards, including a career-high 261 yards by Jaden Meizinger, who ran for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game and was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player. Maurico Porcha led all receivers with two catches for 45 yards and one receiving touchdown. Defensively, the Seahawks held the Red Raiders to just 51 yards on the ground, marking the 10th game this season that Keiser held opponents under 100 yards rushing. Maddox Aprile, the game’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player, recorded six tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss and two sacks (one strip sack).