Eight-time Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference champions (2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008, 2007)
2008 NCAA Division III Quarterfinals
2013, 2012, 2011 NCAA Division III Second Round
When Mike Leonard became Franklin College’s head football coach in 2003, he sought to accomplish much more than field a winning team.
Since taking the reins of the Grizzlies program, Leonard’s top priority has been to instill a collective will among his players to work and play smart. Players will learn how to give their best effort, whether it’s in the class room, on the practice field or on game day.
For him the rewards are more than winning football games and championships.
Leonard wants his players to benefit from the special life lessons that athletics teach and the camaraderie and collective pride that true teammates experience together each season.
In his 14 seasons at Franklin, Leonard and his staff elevated the Grizzlies to a level not seen for many years at FC. Franklin emerged from also-ran status to winning nine football championships in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) in the past 11 years. He has guided the Grizzlies to a 62-2 league record, including six undefeated conference seasons over the past six years. Leonard's team have posted an .820 winning percenage in HCAC contests during his 14 seasons along the sideline.
After sharing the league title in 2016, the Grizzlies were back on top of the conference after going 8-0 in HCAC play, clinching the outright conference title and a berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs. The Grizzlies led the nation in yards per game (564.5) and passing offense (407.1) and finished third overall in points per game (48.6) and fourth in passing efficiency (183.06). The Grizzlies racked up a league-leading 16 all-conference selections, with quarterback Chase Burton collecting HCAC Offensive Player of the Year for the third consecutive season. Additionally, Leonard was named the conference's Coach of the Year for the seventh time in his tenure at FC.
In 2015, the Grizzlies won their sixth consecutive HCAC title and reached the NCAA Division III playoffs for the eighth time in the past nine seasons. Quarterback Chase Burton earned the league's Offensive Most Valuable Player award and becoming the 15th player under Leonard that a Franklin player has received HCAC Player of the Year honors. Franklin tied a school record with 80 points scored at Earlham.
The Grizzlies have maintained success on the gridiron and the classroom during Leonard's 13 seasons. Offensive lineman Austin Carlton was a two-time Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America, earning first team accolades following the 2015 season. A member of the football team has been recognized as an Academic All-American during each of the 2015, 2014, and 2013 seasons.
During the 2014 campaign, Franklin posted an undefeated HCAC record for the fourth time in the past five seasons. The Grizzlies qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs and finished with an 8-3 record. Quarterback Grant Welp earned the HCAC's Offensive Most Valuable Player Award and is the fifth different quarterback under Leonard to accomplish the feat.
In 2013, the Grizzlies earned a first-round playoff victory for the third consecutive season. The team defeated Washington University-St. Louis at Faught Stadium - marking the fourth home playoff contest in program history. Franklin posted eight victories and won its fourth straight HCAC title. Quarterback Jonny West was named the HCAC's Offensive Most Valuable Player for the second time in his career.
Split end Kyle Linville received All-American honors by the American Football Coaches Association and was a first-team All-American selection by D3football.com. Michael Parks and Linville also became the football team's first Capital One Academic All-Americans as chosen by the College Sports Information Directors of America following the season.
The Grizzlies achieved a top-10 national ranking by D3football.com during the 2013 campaign.
In 2012, Franklin advanced to the second round of the Division III playoffs for the second straight season after defeating Adrian 42-10. The Grizzlies won their third consecutive HCAC title, posting a perfect 8-0 league record. The team won nine games and retained the Victory Bell by defeating rival Hanover 58-26 in the regular-season finale. Zack Corpe was named the HCAC Defensive Most Valuable Player.
A school record four players earned All-American honors by D3football.com. Kyle Linville, Michael Parks and Nick Schultz joined Corpe in earning postseason recognition. Franklin has earned 11 All-Americans during Leonard's tenure.
The 2011 season rewarded the Grizzlies with another HCAC championship, having finished with an overall record of 10-2 and a conference record of 8-0. The team earned its fourth automatic berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs and defeated Thomas More at home in the opening round before falling to eventual national champion Wisconsin-Whitewater on the road in the second round. Franklin finished 13th in the American Football Coaches Association's final Division III poll and the Grizzlies were 15th in the final D3football.com Top 25 rankings for 2011.
Ten players were selected to the All-HCAC first-team, including two Most Valuable Player honorees (offense and defense). Leonard was named the conference’s Coach of the Year for the fifth time in six seasons. Moreover, the Griz kept the Victory Bell trophy after defeating arch-rival Hanover College for the seventh straight season.
In 2010, Team GRIZ captured the HCAC championship, finishing with an overall record of 9-2 and a conference mark of 8-0. The team scored 412 points in eight league games while only giving up 81 points, with an average winning score of 51-10 vs. HCAC opponents. Ten FC players were selected to the All-HCAC first-team, including a Most Valuable Player honoree and a Freshman of the Year pick.
In the fall of 2008, FC not only claimed its second league title outright with a 7-0 conference record, but the “Griz” reached the quarterfinals round of the NCAA Division III playoffs by defeating Otterbein and North Central colleges on the road in the first two rounds. Franklin finished the season with an 11-2 overall record, marking a single-season school-record for team victories. The Grizzlies were ranked eighth in the final D3football.com Top 25 poll at end of the year.
Six Franklin players were named to the All-HCAC First Team, including two Most Valuable Player honorees, and Leonard was voted the league's top coach for the third straight year.
In 2007, Franklin claimed its first HCAC title outright with a 7-0 league mark, and earned its first automatic in the NCAA Division III playoffs, making FC’s first post-season appearance of any kind since 1972. The Grizzlies equaled their 2006 school record for most victories in a season with a final overall record of 9-2. A record 10 Franklin players were named to the All-HCAC First Team.
In 2006, the Griz posted a 6-1 record in the league for a second-place finish, and producing a 9-1 overall mark, both best-ever records at
Franklin at the time. The Grizzlies narrowly missed an at-large bid to compete in the NCAA playoffs.
Despite Franklin’s recent spectacular successes, the upcoming 2013 season still poses the same challenges for Leonard and his team.
“Our goal that we set every year is to win the conference championship,” said Leonard, the 17th head coach in the history of FC’s program. “We need to start fast in our first two non-conference games and then finish strong."
When Leonard arrived at the Franklin College helm in January of 2003, he sought to raise the confidence and conditioning levels of his new team right away. The Grizzlies’ new attitude in Leonard’s program involves: always think positive; strive for perfection; stay on the aggressive; enjoy football and enjoy life.
According to Leonard: "Those four things, whether you’re playing football, studying for your classes or applying them in your profession, will give you the best chance for significance."
The Franklin head coach is maintaining a long-standing tradition at FC, throwing the football with a quick-strike offensive attack. The team’s football logo features an F, which stands not only for Franklin, but also for former Grizzlies mentor Stewart "Red" Faught. Faught’s teams were noted for their high-scoring run-and-shoot offenses for most of his 32 years as head coach. Much of Leonard’s offensive system, the Red Attack offense, is taken from Faught’s playbook.
Leonard has been involved with many other successful football programs in his past coaching career.
Prior to taking the reins of the Grizzlies program, Leonard served as offensive coordinator for his alma mater, Hanover College, from the 1999 through 2002 seasons. In the 2002 campaign, Hanover’s offense was ranked fifth in total offense, second in team passing offense and fourth in team scoring offense among all Division III schools.
During the 1996 and 1997 seasons, Leonard served as offensive coordinator at Wittenberg University (Ohio), the winningest football program in NCAA Division III history. He also served as the offensive coordinator with the professional Recruit Seagulls in Tokyo, Japan, which won the Rice Bowl, national championship there in 1998.
His other assistant coaching experiences include serving as quarterback coach at Butler University in 1992, coaching wide receivers at College of the Holy Cross (Mass.) in 1991 and serving in his first tenure as offensive coordinator at Hanover from 1987 to 1991. Leonard was a graduate assistant coach at DePauw University (1984-86) and the University of Alabama (1986).
Leonard received his bachelor’s degree from Hanover in 1984 and his master’s degree from DePauw University in 1986. In his most recent tenure at Hanover, he also served as an instructor of physical education and coached the men’s tennis team. Leonard twice was named Coach of the Year after guiding his tennis teams to league championships. He also previously guided Hanover’s track and field program.
As a football player at Hanover, he lettered four years. Leonard was a team captain, most valuable player and mental attitude award winner in his senior season of 1983.
He is a member of the AFCA, Kiwanis Club, Tabernacle Christian Church and Mike enjoys speaking at a variety of community functions.
Leonard and wife, Susan, have a son, Bart, and daughter, Emily, and reside in Franklin.
Leonard's Football Coaching Career
|Franklin College||Head Coach||2003 - Present|
|Hanover College||Offensive Coordinator||1999 - 2002|
|Tokyo Seagulls||Offensive Coordinator||1998|
|Wittenberg University||Offensive Coordinator||1996 - 1997|
|Tokyo Segulls||Offensive Coordinator||1993 - 1995|
|Holy Cross College||Wide Receveivers||1991|
|Hanover College||Offensive Coordinator||1987 - 1990|
|University of Alabama||Graduate Assistant||1986|
|DePauw University||Graduate Assistant||1984 - 1985|