The View From Pluto: The Coach Who Built Mount Union Into a Powerhouse Gets Hall of Fame Honors
A former longtime coach at the University of Mount Union has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Larry Kehres led the Purple Raiders to 11 Division III national titles in his 27 years of coaching the team. He’s still the school’s athletic director, while his son Vince succeeded him as coach.
WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says Kehres built Mount Union into a college football powerhouse.
Kehres was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame at the National Football Foundation awards dinner in New York City Tuesday night. The coach amassed 332 wins in his 27 years as coach.
The first meeting
Pluto says he first met Kehres just before the coach won his first national title in 1993.
"His idea was to consistently win the Ohio Athletic Conference and get into the Division III tournament and see what happens. He had no visions of a juggernaut or power."
"Finally in '93, they get in and they play Rowan University of New Jersey, which had 17 Division I transfers on their roster. Mount Union was a huge underdog. They won it. And that made Larry think maybe they could take it to another step and start attracting these top kids that aren't good enough to play major college football."
A hometown player and coach
Kehres has always been connected to Mount Union. He grew up near the university in Alliance. He played quarterback at the school in the late 1960's and 1970's. After going to graduate school at Bowling Green, returned to join the coaching staff and became coach in 1986.
Pluto says Kehres had job offers over the years from schools including Princeton and the University of Massachusetts. And he was close to becoming the coach at Kent State University in the 1990's.
"The reason you see so many of these coaches going from place to place -- it's that competitiveness not only to show you can win but, [that you think] the Mid-American Conference isn't good enough. They want to coach in the Big 10. Then they want to try the NFL." But for Kehres, it was the realization that 'this is who I am and where I want to be.'"
And, Pluto says Kehres has always kept the sport and his job in perspective.
"Unlike a lot of football coaches, you could call his house at 8:30 or 9 o'clock at night, and he's home. And he wanted his assistants home, too. You hear about these high-level coaches sleeping in their offices. And he would say, that's insane."
A guru of the game
Pluto says Kehres has become a football expert.
"NFL people have talked to Larry Kehres about passing offense. Top Division I coaches have come to Alliance and met with him. You find a top coaching clinic across the country; he's been invited to speak and has spoken at many of them. He became the oracle of this."
The next generation
After Kehres won his 11th national title in 2013, he stepped down and his son, Vince, took over.
"I asked him if he was waiting to win his last one to go," Pluto says. "And he said, 'Well I wanted to go out winning one. But also Vince was starting to get offers to coach at other Division III schools. And Vince is the exact same age as I was when I became coach at Mount Union.'
"You just don't see this anywhere else," Pluto says.
"To me, it's a remarkable story," Pluto says. "Will we see something like this again? Somebody who wins so many games and turns down the allure of going after the next best thing because it may not be the next best thing, it may just be the next thing."