By Michael Beaven
Paul Winters has withdrawn his name from consideration for the University of Akron head football coaching position and has signed an extension to remain the Wayne State University head football coach through the 2016 season.
WSU's athletic website confirmed Winters decision to stay at the Division II school in Detroit.
Winters, an Akron native who graduated from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and UA, was a star running back and former assistant coach for the Zips.
Winters has spent the past eight seasons as the head coach at WSU, and guided the Warriors to the Division II national championship game where it lost 35-21 to Pittsburg State (Kan.) this past Saturday in Florence, Ala.
The Warriors posted a 12-4 record in 2011. The 12 wins are a school record.
“I am very excited about what we have accomplished and I am even more excited about the future,” Winters said in a prepared statement. “The immediate future means bringing in another great recruiting class.”
Winters has compiled a 48-43 record at WSU, including a 35-14 mark over the past four winning seasons.
“I am ecstatic that Paul has decided to continue as our head football coach,” WSU Director of Athletics Rob Fournier said.
“It would be an understatement to say he has built and created a foundation of success. His contribution to this University far exceeds what he has meant to the football program and the athletics department as the entire University has benefitted by his leadership and presence. Paul has invigorated this campus and this community, and Warrior faithful all over the country will share my sentiments knowing he will continue to be part of this family.”
Winters was hired as WSU's 19th football coach by Fournier on December 17, 2003 after serving on UA’s staff for the previous nine years under Lee Owens, who posted a 40-61 record as Zips head coach from 1995-2003.
Winters was a star running back for the Zips from 1976-1979 and is seventh on UA’s all-time rushing list with 2,613 yards in 29 games. He was a three-time lettermen, a three-time recipient of the Harry “Doc” Smith Award as the outstanding player in his class and was the team offensive MVP in 1979.
Winters served as UA's Running Backs Coach/Offensive Coordinator from 1995-2003 under Owens and was also a Zips assistant from 1982-1985 under coach Jim Dennison. In between those stints he was an assistant at Toledo from 1986-1989 and was on Wisconsin's staff from 1990-1994.
He worked as offensive coordinator with two of the Zips top all-time quarterbacks, Charlie Frye and James "Butchie" Washington.
Since 2004, the Zips have a 32-64 record under former coaches J.D. Brookhart and Rob Ianello. Neither had been a head coach before being hired by UA and both were assistant coaches at larger programs with no ties to the Mid-American Conference or Akron.
UA has arguably the MAC's premier facilities for football, but the league's worst team. The Zips posted a 2-22 record under Ianello the past two seasons before he was fired on Nov. 26.
The Zips have a 5-31 overall record since 2009, when InfoCision Stadium opened.
Brookhart guided UA to its last successful season in 2005, when the Zips defeated Kent State to win the MAC East and then beat Northern Illinois in the MAC title game. That season ended with a loss to Memphis in the Motor City Bowl.
The Zips went 7-6 in 2005 with the final two games being played at Ford Field in Detroit.
WSU had not had a winning football season since 1994 and in the previous five years before Winters’ arrival the Warriors had a 13-40 record.
Winters led WSU to four consecutive road wins in this year’s Division II playoffs, defeating the defending national champions, Minnesota-Duluth, and then undefeated Winston-Salem to advance to the title game.
Winters was inducted into the UA Athletic Hall of Fame on Feb. 2, 1990. He earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial management in 1980 and a M.S. degree in education in 1984.