APPLETON, Wis. -- A change has been made at the top of the football program at Lawrence University.
Associate head coach Mike Barthelmess has been promoted to head coach, and Chris Howard will no longer serve as the head football coach, Director of Athletics Mike Szkodzinski announced Thursday.
Lawrence is 6-34 over the past four seasons.
"It is with great enthusiasm that we promote Mike Barthelmess from associate head coach to head football coach. Mike's track record prior to joining us and his ability to resurrect our offense over the past two seasons gives us reason to believe that he will do a great job as we move our program forward," Szkodzinski said.
"We believe this change will re-energize our program. Mike's professionalism and work ethic are two reasons to believe that he is the right choice for this football program."
A native of Weston, Conn., Barthelmess joined the Lawrence staff in 2010 as the offensive coordinator and associate head coach.
"With great humility and high expectations, I've accepted the position of head football coach," Barthlemess said. "I look forward to my continued work with our young men and our coaching staff as we strive to return Lawrence football to the top of the Midwest Conference."
Upon Barthelmess' arrival, the Vikings immediately saw an uptick in their offensive production. In Barthelmess' first season with the Vikings in 2010, Lawrence nearly doubled its points output. Lawrence went from scoring 11.1 points per game in 2009 to 21.0 in 2010.
Employing a version of the spread offense, Lawrence broke or tied nearly a dozen individual and team records in 2011. With a host of talented players having impact seasons, the Vikings posted the most offensive yards by a Lawrence team since 1997.
This is the second time Barthelmess has directed a college football program. A 1983 graduate of Principia College, Barthelmess coached his alma mater for nine seasons in three stints. He was the Principia head coach from 1990-95, again from 2003-04 and he coached the 2006 season. Principia set several NCAA offensive records and led the nation in total offense during Barthelmess' tenure.
Barthelmess, who has degrees in English and business from Principia, was a football and baseball star in college. He joined the staff at Principia as an assistant in 1985 and later was a graduate assistant at the University of Houston in 1989 and 1990. Barthelmess returned to Principia in 1990 to serve as the head football coach, and he also coached the Panthers' baseball team for four seasons.
Barthelmess first came to Lawrence in 2008 and spent one season as the interim head baseball coach before returning to work in the private sector.
Howard took over the Lawrence football program in December 2004 and coached the Vikings for seven seasons. Howard compiled a record of 19-50, but he enjoyed his greatest success early in his tenure as head coach. The Vikings won four games in 2005, went 5-5 in 2006 and won four games again in 2007. Lawrence won no more than two games in each of the last four seasons, including a 1-9 mark in 2011.
"Although we are thankful for Coach Howard's contributions to the program and the university, we have come to the conclusion that a change in leadership is in the best interest of the program," Szkodzinski said.
Lawrence opens its 2012 season when it takes on Cornell College in the Rams' return to the Midwest Conference.