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FOOTBALL: Building it From the Ground Up

Former Brickie Karras onto his Latest Project at Walsh University in Canton, Ohio

Think of Ted Karras when you think of the movie, “Field of Dreams.” But instead of “If you build it, he will come,” it’s more like, “Karras will build it, if you hire him.”

It sure seems the theme fits the Hobart grad and former Andrean football coach. If you look atKarras’ resume – and it’s quite impressive when you look at all the stops and successes – you know Walsh University got the right man for the job. The Cavaliers moved up to Division II status and immediately plucked Karras away from Marian University, where he won the NAIA national championship in 2012. This after starting the program from scratch in 2008.

“I guess I’m kind of the program-turnaround specialist,” Karras said recently by phone from his office at Walsh University. “I like to change football cultures. It seems like all the jobs I’ve had I’ve had to establish a winning tradition.”

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With more stops than a trek down Route 66, Karras has done plenty with what he’s been given along the way. While he has plenty of perks with U-Haul with all the mileage, Karras has left most jobs for better opportunities, or moves up the ladder in the coaching business. Before building a NAIA power at Marian, Karras revitalized Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute – going 14-16 in three seasons (the best three-year run by a coach in the school’s history). Before Rose-Hulman, Karras was the offensive coordinator at St. Xavier University and part of a conference championship and NAIA playoff-qualifying team in 2002. And before that, he was the coach where most people remember him most – back in the Region at Andrean, where the 59ers began their winning ways. Karras led the team to a 30-10 record over three seasons, including a state championship berth, two regional titles and three sectional crowns. He even got his feet wet at St. Francis College as defensive line coach from 1995-96 and defensive line coach at Lake Forest College from 1993-95. His coaching goes back as far as days as a graduate assistant at both Northern Illinois and Minnesota. He actually began his career as a defensive line coach at Kankakee Valley in 1989 – this after he started for four years on the defensive line at Northwestern.

Now at Walsh University – in the mecca of places in Canton, Ohio – Karras coaches in the same city that is home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“It’s definitely a unique football spot in America,” Karras said, “especially at the prep level. You see the rabid fan base. We’ve just started our (college) scouting now. You see the craziness on game nights.”

Right now Walsh is off to a 2-5 start, but Karras is just 1 ½ years into the job.

“It’s a building stage and I know how it feels,” Karras said. “You have to remember I was at the pinnacle at Marian with that feeling. Now we’re seeing and feeling the growing pains.

“But I love challenges and as long as the (guys) are getting better and improving … we’re going up levels and making small steps.”

Besides Karras, another familiar face landed in Canton — Lake Central grad Riley Arvanitis — a fullback, who redshirted last season.

“He hasn’t done enough to get on the field, but he still has three more years,” Karras said. “We have live practices and the best guys are playing. We scrimmage and go hard. We know who’s who and just right now some older guys are in front of him.”

The drain and hours put on a coach is one thing, but Karras also misses his own son, Ted Jr., play at the University of Illinois. Teddy Jr. is a junior guard and center who was named captain two of three games this season.

“It’s tough at times, but we’ve been doing this his whole life,” Karras said. “My first year (at Rose-Hulman) we lived in Naperville and I missed everything. But that’s the beauty of the Big Ten Network. I can tape and watch all the games.”

Now his focus is on turning Walsh University into a contender in Division II. The Cavaliers compete in the tough-as-nails Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference South Division.

“I’m enjoying it here, but it’s a tough league,” Karras said. “If you make noise in this conference you hear about it.”

With Karras’ track record, you’re likely to hear about Walsh before it’s all said and done.

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