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The Ferris State University Athletics Department officially announced the appointment of Tony Annese as the school's 13th head football coach on Dec. 22, 2011. He will embark on his eighth campaign at the FSU helm in 2019.
A proven winner at all of his previous coaching stops and highly-regarded across the country, Annese took over the Bulldog program following three impressive years as the head coach at Grand Rapids Community College, which came on the heels of a highly successful 25-season stint at the prep level.
In his first season at the helm in 2012, Annese led Ferris State to a 7-4 overall mark and FSU ranked among the nation's top teams in both rushing offense and total offense. For his efforts, he was a national semifinalist in voting for the prestigious Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award.
In his debut campaign, the Bulldogs recorded several impressive wins under Annese's direction, including beating archrival Grand Valley State in the Anchor-Bone Classic for the first time since 1999, snapping a 10-year losing streak to Michigan Tech and topping defending national runner-up Wayne State for the first time in five years. FSU also managed to win seven games for only the second time in the past decade despite facing one of the nation's two toughest schedules in Division II football during the regular-season, according to the Massey Ratings.
After posting an 8-3 overall record in his second season at the helm in 2013, Annese guided the Bulldogs to one of the most historic seasons in school history in 2014. He earned GLIAC and regional Coach of the Year honors as the Bulldogs won the school's first GLIAC Championship since 1999, reached the NCAA Division II Playoffs for the first time since 1996 and posted the first 11-0 regular-season in 106 seasons of Bulldog Football.
In the 2015 campaign, the veteran head coach led the Bulldogs to a second-straight GLIAC Championship and unbeaten regular season. FSU posted its first NCAA Playoff victory in 19 years and ran its regular-season winning streak to 25 consecutive games. Annese was tabbed as the GLIAC Coach of the Year for the second-straight year and also claimed Football Gazette Super Region Four Coach of the Year recognition. Quarterback Jason Vander Laan received the Harlon Hill Trophy as the Division II Player of the Year for the second year in a row under his direction.
The Bulldogs reached even greater heights in year five in 2016 as Annese led Ferris State to the NCAA Division II National Semifinals for only the second time in school history. During the memorable postseason run, FSU captured the Super Region Four Championship by beating archrival Grand Valley State on the road in the regional final. The Bulldogs also broke the school record for most consecutive regular-season victories by stretching the mark to 28 in a row early in the year. Annese garnered Football Gazette Region Coach of the Year honors for the second-straight campaign. Ferris State followed up the memorable campaign by reaching the D2 Playoffs for the fourth year in a row in 2017 while advancing to the national quarterfinals for the second consecutive year, finishing with an 11-2 overall mark.
Last season, in 2018, the Bulldogs notched the most historic season in school history, reaching the NCAA Division II National Championship game for the first time in school history. FSU matched the all-time NCAA wins record, posting a 15-1 overall mark and also claimed both the GLIAC and Super Region Three Championships during the memorable campaign.
Annese, who was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame (MHSFCA) in the spring of 2011, took over as head coach at Grand Rapids Community College in 2009 and instantly turned the Raiders into a national junior college power. GRCC claimed the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II National Championship under his guidance in both 2009 and 2011 after the program had posted only a 7-11 mark in the two seasons prior to his arrival.
While at GRCC, Annese was tabbed as the NJCAA Regional Coach of the Year all three seasons and led the Raiders to a three-year mark of 30-4 overall. The program finished among the nation's top 10 teams three-straight seasons and he coordinated all aspects of the program such as recruiting, player development, academic support and more. His teams featured the nation's top scoring offense in all three seasons and led the country in total offense in 2010.
Annese's final team at Grand Rapids Community College in 2011 posted a perfect 11-0 record and five players were named to the NJCAA All-America Team. The Raiders totaled more than 500 yards and 50 points per game in his innovative offensive attack while winning the Midwest Football Conference Championship.
Prior to taking over at GRCC, Annese established himself as one of the state's premier coaches and a football mastermind in four stops at the prep level. He posted a mark of 195-41 in 22 seasons as a prep head coach at Montrose, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Jenison and Muskegon High Schools while making 15 playoff appearances and five trips to the state semifinals, including three state championships.
In Annese's last stop as a prep head coach at Muskegon High School, he led the Big Reds to a 92-15 (.860) record in nine seasons and claimed three Division II state titles over his last five seasons in 2004, 2006 and 2008. All three teams finished unbeaten at 14-0 overall with his final team in '08 ranked fourth in the country.
The son of another MHSFCA Hall of Famer in Nick Annese, Tony began his prep head coaching career at Montrose High School, where he developed the Rams into a Flint-area powerhouse. He registered a 71-11 (.866) overall mark from 1987-94. The school posted six consecutive unbeaten (9-0) regular-seasons and registered 61-straight regular-season wins while claiming seven Genesee Eight Conference titles.
Following his first prep head coaching stop at Montrose, Annese moved on to Ann Arbor Pioneer where he led the program to a Southeastern Conference Championship and two winning seasons. He then spent three seasons at Jenison High School and led the school to two consecutive Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) State Playoff appearances and an Ottawa-Kent Red Conference Championship.
The 1983 Alma College graduate started his prep coaching career as an assistant in West Michigan at Muskegon Catholic Central for a season before moving to Holland West Ottawa for two more years prior to landing his first head coaching role at Montrose. The Corunna native played collegiately at Alma and also earned a masters degree in educational administration from Central Michigan.
A coach known for winning over his players with his intensity, passion and demand for success, Annese has helped numerous former players move on to play at all levels of college football, including talented wide receiver Ronald Johnson of Muskegon, who has played collegiately at Southern California.
Overall, Annese posted a cumulative 225-45 (.833) overall record as a head coach at the prep and junior college levels. He was a National High School Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year finalist in 2009 and was tabbed as the MHSFCA Coach of the Year in 2004, 2006 and 2008.
Along with his duties as a football coach, Annese also served as a teacher in various roles at all of his prep coaching stops and was a full-time faculty member as an associate professor in the wellness department at GRCC. He has also presented at numerous football clinics over the course of his career including the Mega Clinic, Glazier Clinics, Nike Coach of the Year Clinics, The University of Michigan Clinic, Purdue University Clinic and the Michigan State University Clinic.
Annese and his wife, Christine, have been married for nearly 30 years and the couple has four children, including Steven, Nick, Allie and Anthony. His wife currently serves as the assistant superintendent for human resources in the Forest Hills School District in Grand Rapids.