In today's world people seem jaded about college athletics. This probably comes with good reason given the scandals that have recently dominated the headlines and probably the realization of many people that college athletics and higher education in general is a business, an industry that takes on qualities like many in the nation given the money that is involved.
But for just a moment think of the 444 institutions that make up the largest of the NCAA's three divisions, Division III. These institutions do not give athletic grant-in-aids or scholarships and in fact go out of their way to make sure you know their participants as student-athletes.
You get a passing glance at some of these programs on television maybe more so locally on a regional cable channel, but none of them are getting a big check for their exposure... in fact many of the schools either buy or market the time themselves.
There is one thing that is at all these places just like the "big" schools: the drive and desire of coaches and student-athletes to compete at a high level and achieve success.
One place that has done achieved at a high level on and off the field for a long time is the University of Mount Union Purple Raiders in Alliance, Ohio.
Alliance is in Northeast Ohio about an hour south of Cleveland and Mount Union reflects the industrial base that the region was built on with a grit, determination and attention to detail that is headlined by its football program and football coach.
The Purple Raiders have won 10 national championships and played in the national championship game 15 times since 1993. They have not lost a regular season game since 2005 and have only lost 11 total games in the last 20 years. Over that same span they have 20 straight Ohio Athletic Conference titles.
Players have changed, the game has changed but one thing that has not changed at Mount Union is its head coach -- Larry Kehres.
Kehres enters his 27th season as head coach at 38th working at his alma mater with an incredible 317 wins 24 losses and three ties. You read it right -- 24 losses in 27 years. His 317 wins make him one of only 10 football coaches in the history of college football with over 300 wins and his .926 winning percentage is tops among all college football coaches.
His teams have worked with such clockwork precision over the years that local fans hang a sign in the stadium that says "Welcome to the Machine."
He played four years at quarterback at Mount Union before graduating in 1971 but his connection is deeper than that as he grew up just 15 miles north of campus in the small town of Diamond, Ohio.
He does not cut anyone and his roster routinely hovers around or above 200 players and as proud as he is of his team's on the field accomplishments, he is equally if not more proud of how his program has helped get young men through the college and become productive members of society.
Some you may know like NFL wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts III or University of Toledo head football coach Matt Campbell -- the youngest head coach in Division I-A -- but if you would ever hear Coach Kehres speak he would also tell you about the guy that is a local teacher, or another that works in an office or another that is just a good husband and father.
He has seen football as not just a game but as tool that has helped build a school and a way to teach young men how to be better people and move to a better station in life.
Even with all the bad stories and crazy money it is places like Mount Union and people like Larry Kehres that is still what many in the NCAA's largest division -- Division III think about college athletics.
In full disclosure, I am fortunate to call Mount Union my home and I plan to use this blog to tell you about some of the great people at this and other small colleges across the nation. I also hope to have a guest writer now and again.