By GoLeopards.com featured columnist Mandy Housenick
Lafayette football coach led Leopards to Patriot League titles in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2013
Football senior Draeland James hopes to parlay his summer internship into a career
Lafayette hosts Georgetown in week nine
Game notes vs. Army
Head coach Frank Tavani talks about the release of the upcoming 2012 schedule
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Frank Tavani begins his 17th season as head coach and 30th on the Lafayette coaching staff. Since taking over the head coaching reins in December 1999, Tavani has accumulated the second most coaching wins in Lafayette history and owns four Patriot League titles. Tavani starts his fourth season in the endowed coaching position of Fred M. Kirby II ’42 Head Football Coach established the summer of 2013 by the F.M. Kirby Foundation.
The 2014 season was highlighted by the 150th meeting of College Football’s Most Played Rivalry on Nov. 22 at Yankee Stadium. Leading up to the game, the Leopards were hit with the loss of their top two quarterbacks (Drew Reed and Blake Searfoss) to season-ending injuries. The game plan changed, but the team’s focus did not wane. The Leopards dominated their rivals 27-7 in front of a crowd of nearly 50,000. Ross Scheuerman ’15 entertained the national television audience with a school-record 304 rushing yards.
Tavani showed his coaching acumen in 2013, guiding a team picked fourth in the Patriot League Preseason Poll to a championship season and an NCAA FCS Playoff appearance, despite a 1-5 start to the campaign. Tavani’s Leopards dominated Patriot League play in 2013, trailing in just one game (Colgate) while outscoring league foes by an average of more than two touchdowns (36.3 to 21.2).The campaign included two wins against nationally-ranked opponents and an offense that featured a 1,000-yard rusher and a rookie quarterback who set a single-season completion percentage record.
In his time as the head man, Tavani has transformed Lafayette into a consistent championship contender. From 2004 through 2009, Lafayette spent time in the Top 25 each season and was the only Patriot League program with a winning record in every regular season during that span.
During that run, Lafayette boasted a 26-10 Patriot League record. Lafayette won three consecutive Patriot League championships from 2004 to 2006 and finished a game out of the title hunt in 2009. In that 2009 season, Lafayette was 8-3 with two losses to Top 25 opponents while holding a 4-0 record vs. Ivy League foes for the first time in program history.
In the midst of the 2004-06 championship run, the Leopards made the first three postseason appearances in school history, laying claim to the Patriot League’s automatic NCAA bid in 2004 and 2006, while earning the program’s first at-large berth in 2005.
In addition to Patriot League championships and NCAA Playoff appearances, Lafayette has taken care of business in the Lafayette-Lehigh rivalry. The win in 2007 at Lehigh allowed the Class of 2008 to leave College Hill without ever having lost to its archrival, a feat not achieved since the Class of 1950.
Tavani has been a part of seven Patriot League titles, helping guide the Leopards to crowns as an assistant coach in 1988, 1992 and 1994, to go with the last four championships as head coach.
His teams are achieving in the classroom. Lafayette has boasted 30 academic all-district selections under Tavani and a total of 45 players have earned the distinction since 1995. In 2013, the Lafayette football program had the highest academic progress rate (APR) in the NCAA FCS Playoffs and registered the fourth-best graduation success rate (GSR) in the NCAA. In 2015, Lafayette earned the NCAA’s Public Recognition Award for being in the top 10 percent nationally in APR.
Tavani has also coached five Patriot League Football Scholar-Athletes of the Year (Mark Ross-2013, Brad Maurer-2006, Maurice Bennett-2005, Stephen Bono-2004, Stewart Kupfer-2001). In 2015, 24 student-athletes were named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, preceded by 30 in 2014, 23 in 2013, 35 honorees in 2012, 28 in 2011 and 22 in 2010.
Tavani became Lafayette’s 27th head coach on Dec. 11, 1999 after having served as the Leopards’ running backs coach for 13 seasons. His charge upon taking the job was to restore the Lafayette program to glory.
Tavani’s influence began to take hold in his third season when he resurrected the program with the second-best turnaround in FCS football during the 2002 season. Lafayette improved upon a 2-8 season in 2001 with a 7-5 overall record and 5-2 league mark, which included a 14-7 win vs. Lehigh for the first victory over the Mountain Hawks in seven seasons. Although the Leopards finished 5-6 in 2003, they still proved the turnaround was no fluke as four of those losses were by a touchdown or less, including two against Top 25 opponents.
In 2004, Tavani was named Patriot League Coach of the Year after leading the Leopards to their first championship in a decade, despite being picked no higher than fifth in the preseason poll of the league’s coaches. He was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year Award for his efforts.
Lafayette won when outside expectations were low in 2004 and defended its championship with an experienced senior class in 2005. Those seasons concluded with near upsets of defending national champion Delaware (2004) and eventual national champion Appalachian State (2005) on their home fields, cementing Tavani’s reputation in big games.
In 2006, Lafayette was faced with the difficulty of an anticipated “three-peat” and that may have made the Leopards’ 2006 performance Tavani’s best coaching job. Lafayette broke into the top 25 early in the season, only to drop the next four games against an extremely challenging Ivy League slate before seeing the skid swell to five vs. Holy Cross. Facing a 10-game losing streak to Colgate, the Leopards produced a convincing 27-10 victory, renewing the Leopards’ season and providing the impetus for the stretch run.
After wins over Fordham and Georgetown, Lafayette entered the 142nd game vs. Lehigh in a familiar situation - win and get in. Tavani went to the black jerseys that the Leopards wore for the 2004 game, which resulted in a 24-10 win over the Mountain Hawks. The sartorial switch coincided with the Leopards claiming their third straight championship in style, winning 49-27.
In the FCS Playoffs, Lafayette trailed No. 3 seed Massachusetts 21-14 late in the third quarter before the Minutemen shook the Leopards with a pair of late scores for a 35-14 victory. UMass went on to play Appalachian State in the national championship game.
From 2004-07, Lafayette compiled 29 wins for the best record since the Class of 1927 won 29 games from 1923-26. The 2008 season was highlighted by a 35-14 win at No. 14 Liberty in a hostile environment. The victory was the first for a Patriot League team over a ranked non-league foe in three seasons, showcasing Tavani’s ability to get his troops ready for the big games.
Tavani came to College Hill in 1987, and the Leopards captured their first league crown the next year. He was also the running backs coach on the 1992 and 1994 championship teams, and has secured each of the last four titles as the head coach.
During his tenure, Tavani has coached some of the top players in the program’s history. Andy Romans, the 2007 and 2008 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, anchored the No. 1-ranked defense in the country in 2007 which allowed just 85 yards per game on the ground and 175.2 yards per game through the air. He led the Leopards with 113 tackles and is the third Lafayette player, and first under Tavani, to win the award. Romans and the Leopards finished in second place in the Patriot League standings, one conference win away from a fourth straight title.
Jonathan Hurt ’07, the 2006 Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, grinded out 1,165 rushing yards as a senior. Scheuerman carried for 1,113 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013 and 1,191 yards and 12 TD’s in 2014, giving Tavani a 1,000-yard rusher in 12 of his 29 seasons on the Leopards’ coaching staff. He has recruited and coached the top five rushers in Lafayette history (six of the top seven) and has mentored four different tailbacks to Offensive Player of the Year honors. Erik Marsh ’95, formerly the Patriot League’s all-time leading rusher, was recognized in 1992 and 1993, while Joe McCourt ’05 took the honors in 2004 and Tom Costello ’92 was the recipient in 1989.
An explosive offense guided by a dominant running attack has been a staple of Tavani-led football programs. McCourt finished his career in 2004 as the all-time school and Patriot League-leader with 50 rushing touchdowns and is second in Lafayette annals with 4,474 yards on the ground.
Passing certainly has its place. Marko Glavic and John Weyrauch concluded their careers in 2003 after rewriting the Lafayette record book. Glavic owned nearly every school passing record and is second all-time in the Patriot League for passing yards (9,819) and total offense (10,064 yards) while Weyrauch is second all-time at Lafayette in receptions (162) and receiving yards (2,406). Weyrauch left as the school’s career receiving leader, but his marks were eclipsed in 2013 by Mark Ross ’14 who finished his career with 198 receptions for 2,811 yards and 27 touchdowns. Ross was the only wideout in program history to post consecutive 1000-yard seasons.
Tavani’s impact has extended beyond the playing field and the classroom. He worked with college officials and major donors on the $33 million transformation of Fisher Stadium. The project included new spectator seating, a FieldTurf playing surface, a new press box, 19’-by-35’ video matrix board and the construction of the 24,000 square foot home of Lafayette Football at the Bourger Varsity Football House.
The year before coming to Lafayette, Tavani served as the defensive coordinator at Lebanon Valley College, his alma mater. During that time, he was also Lebanon Valley’s director of alumni services and parents’ programs, activating 15 alumni chapters. From 1976-85, Tavani was the offensive coordinator at Franklin and Marshall College, helping guide the Diplomats to a 10-year record of 67-23-1.
As an undergraduate at Lebanon Valley, Tavani was an outstanding running back, earning the team’s Most Valuable Player honors twice in his career. As a senior, he became the school’s first player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season. An Associated Press All-American as a senior, he was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in the fall of 1988. Tavani was inducted into the Lebanon Catholic High School Hall of Fame in its inaugural class in March 2004 and joined the Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in November 2006. Tavani earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Lebanon Valley in 1975, and has completed postgraduate work in Counselor Education.
Tavani and his wife, Agnes, reside on College Hill, and are the parents of four children. Liam ’03, Meghan ’06 and Bridget ’13 are graduates of Lafayette. Meghan married Frank Morici in 2009 and they welcomed their first child, Natalie, in 2012 and Madelyn in 2014. Daniel, who graduated from Wofford College in 2008 where he was a four-year letterwinner for the football team, married the former Kara Bennewitz in 2011. They welcomed a son, Jackson Anthony, in 2013.
• Entering 40th year in coaching
• Begins 30th year coaching at Lafayette
• Lafayette College, Head Coach, December 1999-present
• Lafayette College, Associate Head Coach, April 1987-99
• Lebanon Valley College, Assistant Coach, April 1986-April 1987
• Franklin & Marshall College, Assistant Coach, February 1976-March 1986
• Given Maroon Club Staff Achievement of the Year Award, May. 2014
• Named Easton UNICO Man of the Year, Feb. 2009
• 2004 Patriot League Coach of the Year
• Finalist for Eddie Robinson National I-AA Coach of the Year Award in 2004
• Lebanon Catholic High School Hall of Fame, Inducted March 2004
• Lebanon Valley College Hall of Fame, Inducted Oct. 1988
• Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame,
Inducted Nov. 2006
• First player in Lebanon Valley College history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season (1975), earning Associated Press All-America honors
• Signed as a free agent with the
Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL, 1976
• Born July 31, 1953
• Native of Lebanon, Pa.
• Married with four children, three grandchildren
• Lebanon Valley College, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, 1975