On April 5 at a 4:30 p.m. all-team meeting at the Kenyon Athletic Center, the Lords football players became the first students to learn that James Rosenbury, former offensive line and special teams coach at Macalester College (Minn.), would be assuming the role of Kenyon head football coach for the 2019 season.
The announcement took place only slightly after the optimistic announcement date of April 1 that Athletic Director Jill McCartney set at the beginning of the process. It was also on the last day of the second full week of spring football practices, which will give Rosenbury time to help implement the structure he wishes to see next season. Despite not officially starting until April 22, Rosenbury has been in constant contact with assistant coaches Ian Good, Tom Lachendro and Dylan Berardelli to become familiar with the team and give input on practices.
Rosenbury appreciates the unique atmosphere of Kenyon and jumped at the opportunity to coach at the small liberal arts school. “I really enjoy working at high-academic schools, specifically Division-III schools,” Rosenbury said. “I graduated from Case Western Reserve University, just up the road from Kenyon, and I had an amazing football experience and an amazing Division-III experience, and I think that really inspired me to continue to work with student athletes who are obviously very good athletes on the field but, more importantly, are great students.”
Rosenbury started playing football in elementary school and continued to play running back throughout his time at Case Western, where he racked up 1,712 rushing yards. After completing his undergraduate degree, Rosenbury remained on Case Western’s campus to serve as an assistant coach. After helping the team to a 31-3 record over three years, he moved to Grinnell College (Iowa) for a season, where the team subsequently improved by four wins from their previous year. He then went to the University of Redlands, where he pursued his masters degree in education and contributed to their coaching staff as they went 14-5 during his tenure.
After two seasons back at his alma mater, he moved to Macalester, where the team was 21-19 in his four seasons. Rosenbury will now enter his 13th season coaching collegiate-level football and his first as a head coach.
One of the most valuable parts of Rosenbury’s resume was the experience of the coaches he’s worked under and the way they have built their programs. “I’ve had the chance to learn from, in my opinion, some of the best coaches in Division-III football,” Rosenbury said. At Case Western he played for and worked under Greg Debeljak, who came to the college when they were a perennial .500 football team and pushed them to six conference championships over the course of 11 years. In four of those seasons the team finished with a perfect 10-0 record.
At Redlands he worked under Mike Maynard, who took over the head coaching job in 1988 when the Redlands hadn’t finished with a winning season since 1980. In Maynard’s 21 years of coaching, the Redlands have only had five losing seasons, and never failed to reach four wins in any of them.
Finally, Rosenbury worked under Tony Jennison at Macalester, whose initial obstacles most mirror his own. “When head coach Tony Jennison got here, Macalester had one winning season in the previous 25 years,” Rosenbury said. “So there are a lot of similarities between Macalester and Kenyon in that sense. People told him, ‘If you take this job, you’ll be out of coaching within two years,’ and luckily he didn’t listen to them. In the 12 years he’s been here, they’ve had seven winning seasons, including conference championships and going to the NCAA playoffs for the first time in school history.”
This bevy of experience piqued the interest of Kenyon’s search committee, who envision a turnaround akin to the ones engineered by Rosenbury’s former bosses. “Coach Rosenbury emerged as the best fit for the head football coach position at Kenyon because of his broad experience at Division-III institutions and, in particular, with football programs that were turned around,” McCartney said in a statement to the Collegian. “He has seen what it takes to build success and has terrific mentors from whom to draw guidance and inspiration.”
Rosenbury met with the players in person for his on-campus interview on April 1, but was not on campus when he heard the news. “The first thing I did was I reached out to all the players and introduced myself, and told them how excited I was to lead them this season and hopefully many more to come,” said Rosenbury. “Really, I want to start developing relationships with those guys and, while it’s very important to do that on the football field, I want to get to know them as people, I want to get to know their families, their siblings; I want to really dig deep and form a relationship.”
Although the rest of his staff has yet to be decided upon, Rosenbury has determined that he will not call plays on either side of the ball. Whoever comes in as the offensive and defensive coordinators will have full control. “I want to bring in great people, and let them do their jobs to the best of their abilities and support them however I can,” Rosenbury said.
The final attribute that made Rosenbury stand out among his competitors was how he sees his future role as not only that of head football coach, but also being an active force on campus. “I especially liked his eagerness to embrace the unique campus culture of Kenyon,” McCartney said. “I believe he will quickly become a beloved member of the Athletics Department and the Kenyon community.”
Rosenbury will officially start his job in two weeks and hopes to make an immediate impact on campus. “I’m looking forward to working with people across campus,” Rosenbury said. “The big thing is I want to build connections with admissions, with financial aid, with health and wellness, with housing. I want to be able to see someone on campus and know their name and have a conversation with them and for them to come away with a smile on their face.”