Waynesburg head football coach, Rich Shepas, announced today, March 6, that he will be retiring after 12 years with the Yellow Jackets.
"I've been fortunate to be a caretaker of the program for the last 12 years," Shepas said. "The main thing on my mind is continuity for the future."
The Yellow Jackets were 2-8 this past season, 69-55 in Shepas' 12 seasons.
Under Shepas, the Yellow Jackets enjoyed a stretch of winning from 2012 until 2014, when they went 25-8, including just the second 10-win season in school history in 2012. The only other squad to reach double digits in wins was the 1966 NAIA national championship team. The Jackets also played in four consecutive ECAC postseason bowl games from 2011 to 2014, defeating Carnegie Mellon 28-24 for Waynesburg's first ECAC bowl victory in 2012. Shepas also coached Waynesburg to the 2007 ECAC Southeast championship game and guided the team to a share of the 2012 Presidents' Athletic Conference title.
"Waynesburg allowed me to fulfill a dream of coaching Division III football for the last 12 years and provided a great environment for me to continue to raise my family," Shepas said. "I'm very grateful for all of that and everything that Waynesburg University has provided to me and my family."
During Shepas' tenure, Waynesburg experienced some of the top individual talent in its long football history. One of, if not the most decorated player, defensive lineman Mike Czerwien, played from 2004 to 2007 and set the NCAA all divisions record with 53.5 career sacks, a record that still stands to this day.
The team's current quarterbacks coach, Carter Hill, played from 2012 to 2014 as one of the most prolific passers in team history. He finished second in the team rankings in career passing yardage (6,976), career total offense (7,034) and career touchdown passes (72).
Shepas also witnessed the greatest single-season rushing effort in Jacket history, during which Robert Heller (2007-2008) produced the most successful year of any freshman running back in NCAA history to that point, when he racked up 2,176 yards on 385 carries, also a school record.
Perhaps one of Shepas' proudest on-the-field accomplishments was converting a talented small high school offensive lineman into one of the best tight ends in the country. This was the case with Adam Moses (2009-2012), a three-time first-team All-PAC selection who was also lauded as a D3football.com All-American.
The Jackets didn't just find success on the field over the past 12 years. Waynesburg football routinely received regional and national-level academic applause over that same time frame.
Perhaps no player defined the idea of student-athlete better than John Sikora (2011-2014), a former linebacker and current assistant coach. Along with being a three-time all-conference pick, Sikora was a three-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and was twice honored as a CoSIDA Academic All-American.
Safety Mike Lopuchovsky (2012-2014) also earned the prestigious status of Academic All-American. He was one of 11 Academic All-District honorees to play under Shepas, nearly all of whom also achieved All-PAC status, as well as a myriad of other athletic accolades.
Shepas realizes that his teams' successes were clearly not all his doing. Rather, he expressed that the entire campus community played a major role in everything accomplished by his teams.
"None of these things were possible without the players who committed to play here and wanted to play here and the coaches who have been with me during my tenure at Waynesburg. I think everything has been great," Shepas said. "I need to thank the faculty and staff who have played huge roles in the recruiting process, as well as the care and consideration of our players while they have been on campus."
As Waynesburg begins the process of finding its next football coach, Shepas has committed to helping with the transition. He has also continued with preparations for the remainder of spring football activities, as well as talking to future recruits.