American Football Database
Rich Ellerson
File:Rich Ellerson.JPG
Ellerson at his introductory press conference at Army
Current position
TitleHead coach
Biographical details
Born (1953-01-01) January 1, 1953 (age 69)
Playing career
Position(s)Center, linebacker
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Hawaii (GA)
Arizona Western C.C. (DB)
Idaho (ST)
Cal State Fullerton (ST)
Hawaii (ST)
BC Lions (DL)
Calgary Stampeders (DC)
Hawaii (DC)
Arizona (ST)
Southern Utah
Arizona (DC)
Cal Poly
Head coaching record
Tournaments1–2 (NCAA D-I-AA/FCS playoffs)
College Football Data Warehouse
Accomplishments and honors
3 Great West Football (2004–2005, 2008)
NCAA Division I-AA Coach of the Year (2003)
AFCA Region 5 Coach of the Year (2004)
Great West Conference Coach of the Year (2004)

Rich Ellerson (born January 1, 1953) is an American football coach and former player. He is currently the head football coach at the United States Military Academy, a position he has held since the 2009 season.[1][2] Ellerson served as the head football at Southern Utah University in 1996 and at California Polytechnic State University from 2001 to 2008. While at Cal Poly, Ellerson's teams secured three conference championships and compiled a 56–34 record, to make him the third winningest coach in school history.

Early years

Ellerson attended Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, Arizona. On 28 September 2002, he was inducted into the Salpointe Catholic High School Sports Hall of Fame. He received a congressional appointment to the United States Naval Academy, which he attended for his freshmen year of 1972–73. He subsequently attended the University of Hawaii between 1974 and 1977 where he played for the Hawaii football team as a center and linebacker.[3]

Coaching career

Early coaching positions

After graduating college in 1977, he served as a Hawaii graduate assistant under head coach Dick Tomey.[3]

From 1992 to 1995, he served at Arizona as an assistant head coach and defensive line coach, working alongside with defensive coordinator Larry MacDuff. During his entire four-year tenure, Arizona was ranked as a top-ten team in total defense and was the number-two defense against the rush in 1992 and 1993. He also worked with special teams, and helped mentor placekicker Steve McLaughlin to a Lou Groza Award-winning season in 1994.[3]

In 1996, Ellerson served as the head coach at Southern Utah, where he oversaw an improvement to a record of 4–7 from 2–9 the previous season. That year, Southern Utah was the leading the NCAA Division I-AA (now Division I FCS) team in rushing offense.[3]

He returned to Arizona from 1997 to 2000 as the defensive coordinator and kickers coach. In his final season there, he coached the Wildcats to become the eighth-ranked rush defense in the nation allowing just 88.5 yards per game on average. Arizona also led the Pac-10 Conference in rush defense and was second in total defense allowing 317.5 yards per game and turnovers recovered with 33.[3]

Cal Poly

In 2001, Ellerson took over as the head coach at the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, California. While at Cal Poly, Ellerson led the Mustangs to a 52–38 record during his eight-year tenure.[3] With a winning percentage of .622, he currently ranks as the third most successful coach in school history.[4]

During his first year, Ellerson led Cal Poly to their first winning season in four years, finishing with a 6–5 record. In 2003, Ellerson was named NCAA Division I-AA Coach of the Year. He led the Mustangs to a winning 7–4 record and a national ranking as high as 14th during the season. In 2004, he was named the Great West Football Conference Coach of the Year and AFCA Region 5 Coach of the Year. He led Cal Poly to secure the Great West championship. In 2005, Cal Poly finished with a 9–4 record and earned its first playoff berth in 12 years. They were defeated by Texas State in the quarterfinals. The Mustangs recorded a 6–0 record at home. The Mustangs narrowly missed qualifying for the 2006 playoffs. In 2007, Cal Poly achieved a 7–4 record and third place in the Great West. The Mustangs finished the season with a #24 final ranking.[3]

Under Ellerson, Cal Poly employed a triple-option offense, similar to the ones traditionally used at the service academies.


In 2008 it was speculated he was a candidate to replace Washington's head coach, Tyrone Willingham.[5] However, he instead accepted an offer to become Army's head coach in December 2008.[6]

According to media speculation, other potential candidates for the vacant Army head coaching position included: Mike Sullivan, a West Pointer and wide receivers coach for the New York Giants; Greg Gregory, South Florida offensive coordinator and former Army assistant coach; Charlie Taaffe, former Maryland offensive coordinator, Canadian Football League coach, and Army offensive coordinator; and Ed Warriner, Kansas offensive coordinator who spent 13 years as an Army assistant coach.[7] Army also gauged the interest of both Navy's offensive and defensive coordinator, Ivin Jasper and Buddy Green, respectively.[8]

Ellerson has several family ties to the Academy. His father and two of his brothers attended West Point. His brother, John, was a captain of the Army football team while at West Point from 1960 to 1963.[2] Rich Ellerson said, "I grew up with that special connection to Army Football. At that age, watching my big brother captain the Army football team, living on Army posts, it was just the biggest thing in our life. It was the foundation of my football experience, not just my Army football experience, and obviously, football is a big part of my life."[9]

He also said: "More than any other place in America, this is an important job. This is the United States Military Academy. We're playing football. We need to be good at this. We need to be. Everybody wants to win. We need to." He also expressed a belief in the importance in working with recruits at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (USMAPS) in order to improve the pool of candidates for the varsity team.[9]

Ellerson also referred offhandedly to Navy, in comparing the type of offensive scheme he plans on bringing to Army. "I'm a triple option guy, and our triple option looks similar to some other team that we see every once in awhile, but it is not exactly alike ... What we do fits well with the Academy at every level."[9]

In his first season at the helm Ellerson's team showed very positive signs of improvement. The team finished the season with a 5–7 record. Going into the final game of the season against Navy a win would have placed Army in the EagleBank Bowl, their first bowl berth since the 1996 Independence Bowl. They would lose to rival Navy by a score of 17–3. Again, a vast improvement considering losses of 34–0 in 2008 and 38–3 in 2007. In his second season, Ellerson continued to turn around the Army football program. In 2010 he led Army to a 7–6 record, its first winning season since 1996 and also an invitation and victory in the 2010 Armed Forces Bowl, the program's first bowl win since 1985. The progress had Ellerson as one of the ten finalists for the 2010 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year. The 2011 campaign for Army was not as successful as the previous two seasons. Facing an extremely tough schedule with eight bowl-eligible teams on it, and only four home games the Black Knights faltered to a 3–9 season that was plagued with injuries to key players. However, the third year under Ellerson's reign seemed to bring the Black Knights even closer to rivals Air Force and Navy. The Black Knights led Air Force at halftime (14–0) before losing by 10 points. Furthermore, they were defeated by Navy 27–21, the closest score in the historic rivalry since the Black Knights 2001 victory in the game.

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Southern Utah Thunderbirds (NCAA Division II Independent) (1996)
1996 Southern Utah 4–7
Southern Utah: 4–7
Cal Poly Mustangs (NCAA Division I-AA Independent) (2001–2003)
2001 Cal Poly 6–5
2002 Cal Poly 3–8
2003 Cal Poly 7–4
Cal Poly Mustangs (Great West Football Conference) (2004–2008)
2004 Cal Poly 9–2 4–1 1st
2005 Cal Poly 9–4 4–1 1st L NCAA Division I-AA Quarterfinal
2006 Cal Poly 7–4 2–2
2007 Cal Poly 7–4 2–2
2008 Cal Poly 8–3 3–0 1st L NCAA Division I First Round
Cal Poly: 56–34 15–6
Army Black Knights (Division I FBS independent) (2009–present)
2009 Army 5–7
2010 Army 7–6 W Armed Forces
2011 Army 3–9
2012 Army 2–10
Army: 17–31
Total: 77–72
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title


  1. As predicted, it looks like Ellerson is Army’s man, Yahoo! Sports, 23 December 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cal Poly coach Ellerson in talks to take Army job, The Tribune (San Luis Obispo), 22 December 2008, retrieved 24 December 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Coaching Staff: Rich Ellerson, Cal Poly-SLO Mustangs football official website, retrieved 13 January 2009.
  4. Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo Coaching Records, College Football Data Warehouse, retrieved January 12, 2009.
  5. John McGrath, Columnist says Ellerson would be a good fit for the Huskies,, The Tribune, 3 December 2008, retrieved 24 December 2008.
  6. Army Hires Cal Poly-SLO's Rich Ellerson as their New Head Coach, December 26, 2008
  7. Army will get its coaching hire right this time, Go Black Knights,, 15 December 2008.
  8. Navy coaches decline Army advances, Hometown, The Capital, 23 December 2008, retrieved 24 December 2008.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Ellerson: "I'm a triple option guy",, 31 December 2008, retrieved 13 January 2009.

External links

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