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McCarthy chosen to lead Lawrence football program

More news about: Lawrence

Rob McCarthy has optimism for a Lawrence football program which has fallen on hard times.
Lawrence athletics photo

Rob McCarthy is the new head football coach at Lawrence, athletic director Mike Szkodzinski announced today.

McCarthy, the defensive line coach at Carleton and former long-time defensive coordinator at St. Olaf, becomes the 28th head coach in Lawrence's 122-year football history.

He replaces Chris Harris, who himself replaced Mike Barthelmess, who left the Lawrence job after the first game of the 2014 season. Barthelmess was 3-18 in two-plus seasons as head coach, while Harris finished out the season 2-7.

A native of Deer River, Minn., McCarthy brings 25 years of coaching experience to Lawrence.

"I just think it's a great, great opportunity," McCarthy said of coming to Lawrence. "During my visits, I found a great excitement for football and a passion for excellence among the administration, faculty and alumni. That made me really want to be part of Lawrence's rich football tradition."

Lawrence has had a .500 record just once in the past 16 seasons.

McCarthy said his first priority will be to build the Lawrence football family, and he wants to see greater depth in the program.

"No. 1, we want to build a football family where I is replaced by we, team is replaced by family. We will provide Lawrence student-athletes with a great experience. Winning will be a byproduct of doing things the right way," McCarthy said.

"In addition, recruiting will be a priority. We have to get the numbers up to provide a quality experience. We want to recruit young men who want excellence in their lives, both in academics and athletics. We will recruit the top student-athletes from the Fox Valley, the state of Wisconsin and the country."

Lawrence president Mark Burstein praised McCarthy's commitment to the student and the student-athlete.

"One of the distinctive aspects of Rob's candidacy was his strong support of students' interest to pursue more than one passion or – as we like to say – multi-interested students," Burstein said. "To reinforce this commitment, Rob has served through most of his career as the assistant men's and women's track coach where his student athletes have had significant success."

Szkodzinski said McCarthy emerged from a talented group of candidates to be the next leader of Lawrence's football program. A committee consisting of Lawrence administrators, faculty, students, trustees and alumni considered more than 100 applicants identified in a national search.

"We are very excited to welcome Rob to our staff as the next head football coach," Szkodzinski said. "The applicant pool was tremendously competitive and Coach McCarthy distinguished himself as one of the top recruiters in our pool."

Szkodzinski added that bringing McCarthy to Lawrence serves the best interests of the program and will keep the team moving forward. With the hiring of the McCarthy and the renovation of the Banta Bowl taking place this year, Szkodzinski reiterated the administration's commitment to football and the department of athletics as a whole.

"Rob's connections throughout the Midwest, Florida and nationally will serve our program well," Szkodzinski said. "Not only will he be able to attract tremendous student-athletes to Lawrence, as he has at other excellent institutions, his experience as a coordinator led us to believe that he has the tools to help us succeed on the field as well. We know Coach McCarthy will be an asset to the entire department and look forward to watching our program move back toward the top of the Midwest Conference."

This past fall was McCarthy's first at Carleton after spending the previous 12 seasons at St. Olaf. While at St. Olaf, McCarthy was part of a coaching staff that put together the best 12-year record in school history with a 73-47 mark. McCarthy was responsible for bringing a number of stellar players to St. Olaf, including one (Horace Gant Jr.) that went on to the NFL, a number of All-Americans and many All-West Region and first-team All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference picks.

McCarthy served in a variety of roles, most notably as defensive coordinator, for the Oles. He also worked as the special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator for St. Olaf, which won eight games in four different seasons during that 12-year span.

McCarthy began his coaching career at Concordia-Moorhead, where he earned a bachelor's degree with a double major in English and speech, communications and theater arts in 1989. A standout defensive lineman for the Cobbers, McCarthy earned All-MIAC honors and helped his team to conference championships in 1986 and 1988.

After serving as an assistant coach at Concordia for the 1989 season, McCarthy moved to St. Thomas in 1990. He served with the Tommies for five seasons and helped them win the MIAC championship in 1990. McCarthy then coached at Northwestern (Minn.) and UW-Eau Claire over the next five seasons. He helped Northwestern win the 1995 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference title and was part of the UW-Eau Claire team that took the 1998 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.

McCarthy earned his Master of Science of Education in learning disabilities from UW-Eau Claire in 2000. He then returned to coach for one season at St. Thomas and one season at Pensacola (Fla.) High School before moving to St. Olaf.

After coaching for most of his career in Minnesota, McCarthy said Lawrence provided him exactly the opportunity he was seeking, both for himself and his family. McCarthy and his wife, Angie, have three children.

"It's a great place to raise a family," McCarthy said. "I wasn't just going to leave. It needed to be the right program. When this came up and everyone raved about Appleton and Lawrence, we knew this was the one."

Lawrence has been playing varsity football since 1893 and ranks third in Midwest Conference history with 16 league championships. The Vikings have won 496 games during their storied history, and that includes the distinction of being the first Midwest Conference team to host, and win, a NCAA Division III playoff game.

Lawrence has nearly 450 All-Midwest Conference selections since the league began choosing teams in 1937. The Vikings have 66 All-America selections, starting with Claude Radtke in 1949. Lawrence also is the only school in the Midwest Conference to have a player, Scott Reppert in 2003, selected for the College Football Hall of Fame.

The definitive history of the USFL: Football for a Buck, by Jeff Pearlman. Available now!
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