Mike Jacobs is the new head football coach of Lenoir-Rhyne University.
Jacobs comes to Lenoir-Rhyne from Notre Dame College (Ohio) where he served as the head coach for four years, accumulating a 42-8 record and a spot in the NCAA semifinal in 2018 and NCAA quarterfinal in 2019, according to a Lenoir-Rhyne press release.
“I am excited to welcome Mike Jacobs along with his wife, Lacey, and sons, Luke and Knox, to the Bears family,” Vice President for Athletics Kim Pate said in the release. “Mike brings tremendous experience, having developed one of the top Division II programs in the country into a national contender, and understands the importance of developing a winning culture that emphasizes high character and the student-athlete experience.”
Jacobs lifted the Notre Dame Falcons to new heights in his tenure, including a run to the NCAA Semifinals in 2018 and a narrow 30-24 loss to eventual national champion Valdosta State, according to the release. The 2018 NCAA Region 1 Championship was the first in program history. Before that, Notre Dame had never made an NCAA playoff appearance.
Jacobs coached the Falcons to back-to-back Mountain East Conference championships in 2018 and 2019 and was named the league’s Coach of the Year both seasons, according to the release. The Falcons garnered national recognition, being ranked as high as fourth in the AFCA Coaches Poll in 2019 and 11th in 2018. Following the 2018 campaign that saw Notre Dame go 13-1 overall and 10-0 in the MEC, Jacobs was announced as the Regional and National Coach of the Year by the Don Hansen Football Gazette.
“I am humbled by the opportunity and honored to be the 23rd head football coach at Lenoir-Rhyne University,” Jacobs said. “I would like to thank President Whitt and Vice President for Athletics Kim Pate for trusting us to lead the storied Bears program. My wife Lacey and our two sons, Luke and Knox, look forward to meeting and immersing ourselves in the Lenoir-Rhyne football family and the wonderful community of Hickory. We will work quickly to put together one of the finest coaching staffs in NCAA DII and they will hit the ground running in recruiting. It will be our goal to not only uphold the great LR tradition, but to elevate it each day.”
After leading his squad to the Region 1 Championship, Jacobs set out to replicate that success in 2019, according to the release. Notre Dame rattled off nine straight wins to open the season, eventually making it to the NCAA quarterfinals. The Falcons offense ranked fourth in Division II in scoring offense at 39.5 points per game, and topped the record for all-conference selections in 2019 with 18 being named All-MEC, including winning the Offensive Player of the Year, Offensive Freshman of the Year and Defensive Freshman of the Year for the second straight season. Six players went on to be named All-Region and two were All-Americans.
Individually, Jacobs coached RB Jaleel McLaughlin to be a Harlon Hill finalist in each of the past two seasons, including a runner-up for the award in 2019. McLaughlin led Division II in rushing in each of the past two years and his 2,421 yards gained as a freshman in 2018 is a Division II record.
The Falcons were strong on the defensive side of the ball under Jacobs as well, finishing ninth in the nation in rushing defense in 2019 and Notre Dame’s 128 tackles for loss ranked fifth in Division II, according to the release. During the 2018 season, the Falcons ranked first in the country in red zone defense and in the top five in four other defensive categories. Over the past two years, the defense generated 92 sacks and 232 tackles for loss.
In the classroom, Jacobs had four Academic All-Region selections and three Academic All-Americans. Jacobs significantly improved the team’s overall GPA with the implementation of the Falcons for Life initiative focused on helping players achieve success in the classroom and develop transferrable skills to set players up for success after college, according to the release.
“Mike is the right person at the right time to lead our football program and has enthusiastically embraced our high expectations for excellence on and off the field,” Lenoir-Rhyne University President Fred Whitt said. “I know our student-athletes and the entire Bear Nation will welcome his passion and commitment to our players and program as we strive to take our football program to an even higher level of excellence.”
As a player, Jacobs was a five-year member and two-time letter-winner at the Ohio State University from 1997-2001, according to the release. He was an offensive lineman and a long snapper for both John Cooper and Jim Tressell. During his career, he played in more than 30 games, including two Sugar Bowls. Jacobs also was an Academic All-Big 10 and scholar-athlete award winner in 2001.
Jacobs will be introduced at a public celebration on Monday, Jan. 6, at noon in Belk Centrum on the Lenoir-Rhyne campus. There will be a reception after the press conference. Both the press conference and reception are open to the public. The event also will be live streamed on LRBears.com.
“I am excited for Mike Jacobs and the opportunity that he has in becoming the head football coach at Lenoir-Rhyne,” College Football Hall-of-Famer Mel Tjeerdsma said in the release. “Mike turned Notre Dame College into a national power in a short time. He will be a great leader for LR and will guide them as they build on their outstanding tradition.”