GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio – La Salle football coach Jim Hilvert wanted to return to coaching college football so he felt an opportunity this weekend was too good to turn down.
Hilvert has accepted the Baldwin Wallace University head football coaching position after considering an offer for the past 24 hours. Hilvert will arrive at Baldwin Wallace by the end of the week.
“For me it was the right time and place to get back into college football,” Hilvert told WCPO.com. “Baldwin Wallace is filled with tradition with the Tressels (link: http://bwyellowjackets.com/sports/fball/Program_Information/tresselfamily_) and everything else. I love college football. I always have. I like being able to connect with 18 to 23 year olds and to be able to run them into men.”
Hilvert, who led the Lancers to back-to-back Division II state titles, interviewed last week with the NCAA Division III college program in Berea, Ohio, near Cleveland.
“La Salle was great,” Hilvert told WCPO.com. “We had an unbelievable run. To win a state title was on my bucket list and to do it twice was unbelievable. One other goal on my bucket list is to win a (college) national title.”
Hilvert said he was torn about the decision having spent most of his life in the Cincinnati area. Before coaching at La Salle, Hilvert had been head coach at Thomas More College for eight years and compiled a 67-19 record at the NCAA Division III program in Crestview Hills, Ky.
“It was not an easy decision whatsoever,” Hilvert said.
Hilvert met with the seniors shortly after noon at La Salle to inform them of his decision. La Salle has 28 seniors who won three consecutive state titles.
“He’s had unprecedented success going back-to-back with the two state titles,” Pantling said. “We obviously did everything we could to make him a generous offer. I think Jim’s heart is with college football. He has an offer to coach football 24/7 in a great situation.”
Pantling told WCPO.com he is organizing a committee this afternoon in starting the search process for the next Lancers coach. He said the head coaching position will be posted by the end of the week.
“Obviously we’ll have some very impressive candidates amidst the greatest run in program history,” Pantling said.
Strength and linebackers coach Jay Volker along with longtime assistant coaches Brian Heidorn (defensive line) and Tom Doerger (offensive line) will run the offseason weight conditioning program and handle college recruiting duties in the interim.
As of now, Hilvert said the plan is to not take any current La Salle assistants with him to Baldwin Wallace.
“We have a plan in place to get our offseason program off the ground next week with our current staff,” Pantling said.
Hilvert, who lives with his wife Jennifer and their three children in Northern Kentucky, turned 46 on Dec. 1 – the same day the Lancers won their third consecutive Division II state title in Columbus.
La Salle defeated Massillon Perry 14-7 at Ohio Stadium to become the first Ohio high school football program to win three consecutive Division II state titles. La Salle also won the Greater Catholic South division title outright for the first time in program history, which dates to 1962.
La Salle won the school’s first state title under Nate Moore in 2014. Moore, who was in his second season, accepted the Massillon Washington head football coach and athletic director positions in January 2015.
Hilvert was named the La Salle coach just three days after Moore accepted the Massillon Washington positions.
"Coaching in the GCL South and leading the young men in the La Salle football program are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” Hilvert said in a release at the time. “I am also excited to coach at the alma mater of my father, Jim Sr., who was in the class of 1964."
At Thomas More, Hilvert won six Presidents Athletic Conference titles. Thomas More had undefeated regular seasons in 2009 and 2010.
Under his leadership, Thomas More also attained a top 20 national ranking three times for Division III programs. For his efforts, Hilvert was recognized three times as the Presidents Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
Prior to Thomas More, Hilvert also had experience at Mt. St. Joseph, Winton Woods, Oak Hills and Western Michigan University.