Posted: Nov 21, 2019
FRANKLIN, Ind. - After a stellar 17 years leading the Franklin College football program, Mike Leonard is stepping down as head coach, Director of Athletics Kerry Prather announced today. Leonard will remain at the college, assuming responsibilities within the office of development and alumni engagement.
During his tenure on the sideline, Leonard elevated the Franklin football program to national prominence, recording a 129-55 record to become the program's all-time wins leader, surpassing legendary head coach Stewart "Red" Faught with his 121st win coming during the 2018 season.
"Mike came to Franklin and moved our football program to a level of consistent excellence, and he did it with class and professionalism," Prather said. "He enjoys the respect of not only the young men who have played for him, but also of colleagues within the HCAC and around the country. It's been a day-to-day pleasure to work with Mike and watch the football program prosper."
"After 17 years of being the head football coach at Franklin College and 36 years in the coaching profession, I've decided the time is right for me to step aside and take on a new challenge in life," said Leonard. "It has truly been an honor to serve as Franklin's head football coach, and my family and I are extremely thankful to Kerry Prather, President Tom Minar and former President Jay Moseley for believing in me all these years. We were fortunate to win some games and championships along the way, but the real trophies for me will always be the special relationships formed with the players, our coaches and their families."
In conference play, the Grizzlies went an astounding 106-20, winning eleven outright or shared HCAC championships. Franklin became a constant in the NCAA Division III playoffs, qualifying nine times and picking up five playoff wins. The Grizzlies' deepest run came during the 2008 season when they knocked off Otterbein and North Central to reach the national quarterfinals, finishing the year with an 11-2 record and a #8 ranking in the national polls.
More than 200 student-athletes have earned all-conference accolades during Leonard's tenure with 12 players being named either league offensive, defensive, special teams or freshman of the year. Leonard himself has been recognized as the league's Coach of the Year on seven different occasions, the most recent coming in 2017.
Franklin's players have also been recognized on a national level, with 11 players garnering All-America awards from D3Football.com with Kyle Linville '13 and Chase Burton '18 earning First Team All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association. Linville, Austin Carlton '16 and Michael Parks '14 became the first three players in program history to earn CoSIDA Academic All-America accolades during their time under Leonard's tutelage.
"I am immensely grateful to Mike for all he has done to elevate Franklin College and its football program, and excited about the new opportunity he is embarking upon at the college," said Franklin College
President Thomas J. Minar, Ph.D. "His heartfelt passion about Franklin and the opportunities it creates for students is steadfast, and I am confident he will help ensure a prosperous future for the college in his new role."