March 8, 2013

Ferrum assistant gets next turn in RPI's revolving door

More news about: Ferrum | RPI
Photo by Tammi Armstrong

RPI athletic director Jim Knowlton today announced the appointment of Ralph Isernia as head football coach. A veteran of 22 years in coaching, he brings experience from Division III, Division II and the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly I-AA.

Isernia will be RPI's fifth head football coach in 21 months, not counting former D-III head coach Bob Surace, who was the interim choice after longtime coach Joe King left. He follows Bob Bodor, who led RPI to a 5-4 mark last season despite being the third person to have the position in a five-month span.

“I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity to join the Rensselaer community,” Isernia said. “Being a head coach has always been a career goal of mine and to do so at Rensselaer is a tremendous opportunity. The people I met while visiting the campus were very impressive and showed me why the Institute is held in such high regard. I am especially eager to get to know the student-athletes and assist them as they continue to strive for success.”

“Our national search for a football coach produced an exceptionally strong pool of candidates, and it is clear that Ralph Isernia is the right person to lead the Rensselaer football program as we anticipate even higher levels of success in the future,” said Rensselaer president Shirley Ann Jackson. “He is an experienced mentor and educator, and his experience in three different college football divisions will serve us well as we seek to build on our tradition of achievement in football.”

“We are excited to welcome Ralph to the athletic department team,” said Knowlton. “He has a track record of success over many years and will help us continue to provide an exceptional developmental experience for our student-athletes.”

Isernia comes to Rensselaer from Ferrum, where he was the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for the Panthers. In his two seasons he helped the team to a share of the 2012 USA South Conference championship and coached two different quarterbacks who each won league Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Isernia spent the six years prior at the University of Charleston, where he was an assistant head coach, the offensive coordinator and interim head coach. He was a regional finalist for the Division II Assistant Coach of the Year Award in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

His accomplishments with the Golden Eagles included directing an offense that set numerous school records while helping the team become a contender for the conference title each season. The offense was consistently ranked among the best in the league in points per game, rushing, pass efficiency and sacks allowed. Among the players on the team, which was nationally ranked in 2009 after a 9-2 finish, were two who signed NFL free agent contracts.

Isernia has also coached at Bucknell University (2004-05), Mansfield University (2001-04), Defiance (2000-01), Methodist (1994-00) and Western Connecticut State  (1991-94). He served as offensive line coach at Bucknell, helping the Bison to a 7-4 record – its best finish since 1999 – and a No. 30 national ranking. Offensively, the team was ranked ninth in rushing offense and 11th  in pass efficiency among NCAA Division I-AA schools.

In his 22 years of coaching, Isernia has coached more than 70 All-Conference players, nearly 20 All-Americans, four Academic All-Americans and two AFCA Good Works All-Americans. From the seven different schools he has coached, Isernia's offenses have established the all-time leading passer six times, the all-time leading rusher twice and the all-time leading receiver four times.

A member of the American Football Coaches Association, Isernia is a frequent speaker and clinician at the organization's events as well as at football camps around the country. He has had various articles published including; “On Sportsmanship: A Letter to My Son” in the Elmira Star Gazette and “Offensive Line Blocking Progression” in Gridiron Coach Magazine.

A native of Long Island, Isernia is a graduate of Davidson, where he was the first known two-sport captain, having led both football and baseball. On the gridiron he was a four-year starter as a running back, leading the team in numerous offensive categories, including rushing, receiving, and scoring as well as punt return yardage. In baseball he was one of the top hitters in the league, earning All-Big South in 1991.

Isernia received a bachelor's degree in sociology and anthropology from Davidson and his master's in counselor education from Western Connecticut. He and his wife Lynn have three children, Rett, Grace, and Ryan.

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