The man who once set Earlham's single-season rushing record has
a new opportunity to reverse the Quakers' current record of
football frustration. Dean of student development Deb McNish
announced that long-time assistant Gerry Keesling is Earlham's new
head football coach.
"Gerry was involved in our previous search for a head coach and we considered him then to be an excellent candidate," said McNish, explaining in part the school's quick action on filling the head coaching vacancy. "We're pleased to name Gerry as head coach because of his commitment to Earlham College and his 12 years of coaching, teaching and mentoring our students."
Keesling, assistant professor of athletics, wellness and physical education, assumes leadership of Earlham's gridiron fortunes after Lawrence Livingston's one campaign as top play caller. During the winter break Livingston announced that he would leave the football program to become assistant head coach and offensive line coach at the University of Texas at El Paso. The Quakers went 2-8 under Livingston last season. Keesling served as interim head coach the year prior to Livingston's arrival, guiding the Quakers to a 4-3 record in the North Coast Athletic Conference.
As a junior halfback in 1980 Keesling ran for 769 yards, setting the single-season rushing mark. Injuries his senior year reduced Keesling's playing time, but not his dedication to the team, said athletic director Frank Carr. In 1981 Carr was in his first year as an assistant coach at Earlham.
"When Gerry was an athlete he played with a passion," Carr said. "A passion inspired not only by family tradition, but also by a long personal history with Earlham College."
Keesling's father, Gerald Keesling, is a 1956 alumnus. The junior Keesling grew up in nearby Winchester, Ind., spending many an autumn Saturday in the stands at Reid Field (the previous home of Earlham football, before its move to M.O. Ross Field). As a player Keesling would earn four varsity Es and the rank of team captain for the 1981 season. The Keesling family's relationship with the college and football team continues today, as well, in the presence of the coach's son, Mike, a sophomore wide receiver.
Keesling joined Earlham's sideline staff in 1991 and has been the team's offensive coordinator for 10 seasons.
"Not only does Gerry know Earlham, but we know and value Gerry greatly," said Carr. "I believe his vision for Earlham football and his commitment to our students" success both on and off the field will have positive impacts in recruiting, rebuilding Earlham into a consistently excellent football program."
With football prospects still having several weeks to decide on whether to apply to Earlham the consequences of Livingston's departure in terms of successfully landing recruits had been a significant concern for Carr, as was the retention of current players, some of them facing the prospect of playing for their fourth head coach in as many years. Carr believes both issues can now largely be set aside.
"Gerry bridges all of the players on our team," Carr said. "In one way or another he was involved in recruiting each of them, and he's had that same kind of contact with all of our current prospects. Clearly, I think Gerry's hiring as head coach settles a lot of the ‘consistency' questions that can arise in these kinds of situations."