|by Chuck Summers '10 • February 7, 2008|
The month-and-a-half long search for Wabash’s next head football coach is officially over, as Erik Raeburn has been given the task to pick up where Chris Creighton left off.
Raeburn arrived at Wabash Monday night, and has had a hectic time settling in, taking care of college business, meeting with members of the media and finally his team, all on his first day on the job. In the small time Raeburn has spent on campus thus far, he has already gotten a strong sense of the tradition and camaraderie present.
"You can just tell this is a special place," Raeburn said. "It’s a great atmosphere and great student support. I was at the basketball game (against Wittenberg) and I was very impressed with the fans."
Raeburn comes to Crawfordsville after spending the last eight years at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he turned a mediocre program into a perennial conference contender in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He posted a 57-26 record at Coe, as well as coaching 65 All-Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference players, 40 All-Americans, and two Academic All-Americans.
He guided Coe to its first IIAC title in school history in 2002, and followed with conference championships in 2004 and 2005. He was the 2002 IIAC Coach of the Year and Regional Coach of the Year. He led the Kohawks to their first-ever playoff appearance in 2002, advancing to the second round, and also led Coe to the playoffs in 2005. .
"We admire the conference he coached in," said Dean of Students Thomas Bambrey, who led the committee that hired Raeburn. "Winning there in the IIAC is impressive."
Raeburn also has experience with arguably the best program in all of Division III football. Before taking over at Coe, Raeburn was an assistant coach for his alma mater, Mount Union. The Purple Raiders won four national championships while Raeburn was their Offensive Line coach and Offensive Coordinator.
"My experience as an assistant coach was tremendously positive," Raeburn said. "I was there before we were a national power. I know how difficult it can be to get over the hump." And that’s exactly what will be expected of Raeburn - getting over the hump. Creighton brought Wabash to the national spotlight with three playoff appearances, but the Little Giants have been unable to compete with the top tier Division III teams. Raeburn hopes that will change.
"There’s a pretty fine line between where we are now and a National Championship," Raeburn said. "There are some big steps to take. We have a great football program in place. We’re in better shape then you probably realize."
Among those steps, Raeburn said are commitment, work ethic, recruiting talent and putting that talent in a great system.
Raeburn also believes that the unique culture of Wabash will help him recruit that talent.
"Wabash being all-male is an advantage," Raeburn said. "It’s something special and unique about Wabash that other schools can’t offer."
Offensively, Raeburn’s system will be similar to Creighton’s open passing attack.
"There will be more similarities than differences," Raeburn said. "What we try to do, rather than plugging players into a system, is forming a system around the players we have. So if we have four great receivers, we’re going to spread them out and throw it. But if we feel our best players are tight ends and full backs, we’ll take advantage of that."
As a coach, Raeburn described himself as "very motivated, very driven and very demanding." But he also said he cares about his players and what they do off the field.
"I’m excited to be here," Raeburn said. "you guys have some amazing traditions here, and I’m still just learning. Those are important, I need to embrace those and learn those."
In photos: Upper right, Raeburn talks about his time at Mount Union and Coe. Lower left, Bachelor Sports Editor Chuck Summers interviews the new coach.