DeKALB, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) [News Release)– Northern Illinois University head football coach Thomas Hammock, who led the 2021 Huskies to the Mid-American Conference Championship and a 9-4 record, has been named a finalist for the 2021 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, the Football Writer’s Association of America (FWAA) and Allstate Sugar Bowl announced Tuesday.

Hammock is one of 13 finalists for the honor in 2021, along with Blake Anderson, Utah State; Dave Aranda, Baylor; Luke Fickell, Cincinnati; Jim Harbaugh, Michigan; Billy Napier, Louisiana; Pat Narduzzi, Pitt; Nick Saban, Alabama; Kalani Sitake, BYU; Kirby Smart, Georgia; Jeff Traylor, UTSA; Mel Tucker, Michigan State; and Kyle Whittingham, Utah.

“What a tremendous honor to be named a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award,” Hammock said. “Anytime you can be associated with Eddie Robinson and what he did in this profession speaks volumes. Most of the credit for this goes to the players and our coaching staff for what we’ve been able to accomplish this season with a historic turnaround. It’s gratifying to see the respect around the country for the success we’ve had this year.”

He is just the fourth MAC head coach to be selected as a finalist since 1997 when finalists were named, joining his fellow NIU alumnus P.J. Fleck (Western Michigan, 2016), former NIU head coach Dave Doeren (2012) and Toledo’s Gary Pinkel (1997).

Hammock, the 2021 MAC Coach of the Year led the Huskies, the second-youngest team in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), to the MAC West Division title and eight wins during the regular season, including seven by one score or less. The Huskies earned their ninth win on Saturday, December 4 with a 41-23 victory over Kent State in the Rocket Mortgage MAC Championship game in Detroit. The nine-win season came one year after the Huskies went 0-6 during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign.   

NIU opened the 2021 season with a 22-21 “Boneyard” win at Georgia Tech after scoring a touchdown and two-point conversion with 38 seconds to play. NIU won four games by two points or less and another in overtime in 2021, the most one- or two-point wins by a FBS team in a season since Virginia won five games by that margin in 2007. He became the fourth NIU head coach to be named MAC Coach of the Year, joining a list that includes Bill Mallory (1983), Joe Novak (2002) and Rod Carey (2013).

The FWAA has presented a coaching award since the 1957 season when Ohio State’s Woody Hayes was named the first recipient. Beginning in 1997, the FWAA Coach of the Year Award has been named in honor of the late Robinson, a coaching legend at Grambling State University for 55 seasons.

The 13 finalists have been placed on a ballot which has been sent to the entire FWAA membership. The 2021 recipient will be announced on Mon., Dec. 20. The official presentation will be at a reception on Saturday, January 8 in Indianapolis prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship.