Photo provided by Wabash College <br>
New Wabash College football coach Erik Raeburn
Photo provided by Wabash College
New Wabash College football coach Erik Raeburn
Erik Raeburn knows how to build a football program.

He's already got the history - working as an assistant coach at NCAA Division III powerhouse Mount Union and then, as a head coach, taking Coe College to new levels, including two NCAA Division III playoff berths in eight years.

So when he saw the opening at Wabash College, Raeburn thought he'd like to be a part of another storied football program.

He was just hoping he'd fit their criteria as a head coach.

Driving back to Iowa from his interview late Friday afternoon, Raeburn found out he did - as he became Wabash College football's new head coach.

"I know Wabash has a great tradition and is a tremendous school and they're in a great conference," Raeburn said. "Those are the things I was initially attracted to . . . I just wasn't sure that they would think that I was the right fit. I certainly was happy when they called me and offered me the position."

Raeburn succeeds former Wabash coach Chris Creighton, who led the Little Giants for seven years before becoming Division I-AA Drake University's head football coach on Dec. 20.

Creighton led Wabash to the Elite Eight two times, including this past season with an 11-2 finish, reached the NCAA Division III playoffs three of his seven years and has led the team to three-straight North Coast Athletic Conference titles.

With Raeburn's hiring, the Little Giants ended a 43-day search for a successor. He and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater assistant coach Jim Zebrowski were the two finalists.

Raeburn, 36, has coached at NCAA Division III Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the past eight years. And he's turned the program into a solid success - winning conference titles and

reaching the playoffs.

He led the Kohawks to a 7-3 overall record and 5-3 Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (ICAC) record this past season (third-place) and has a 57-26 overall record.

During his tenure, Raeburn guided Coe College to two NCAA Division III playoff appearances, winning its first conference title in school history and advancing to the second round in 2002 and first round in 2005.

But he's also been worked at another storied program - Mount Union.

Before taking over at Coe College, Raeburn worked as an assistant at Division III powerhouse Mount Union College (Alliance, Ohio) from 1994-99 and helped the Purple Raiders earn six Ohio Athletic Conference championships and three NCAA Division II National Championships (1996-98).

In fact, his uncle, Larry Kehres, is the Purple Raiders' head coach. Kehres has led Mount Union to 18 Ohio Athletic Conference championships, recorded 16 undefeated regular seasons and guided the team to nine Division III NCAA National Championships in the past 14 years.

Raeburn acknowledged those two experiences have shaped his coaching career.

"Being an assistant at Mount Union was an extremely valuable time for me," he said. "I worked for the most successful coach in history of college football. I think that was a tremendous experience for me."

President Pat White liked Raeburn's track record of success.

"Erik Raeburn brings to Wabash a commitment to coaching student athletes to excellence on and off the field," said White in a press release. "A champion who knows how to bring out championship performances in his teams, Coach Raeburn is a perfect fit for Wabash now and for our best dreams for the future."

Raeburn acknowledged Wabash and Mount Union are similar - as to the players' level of commitment in becoming great football players and academic status.

"Obviously Mount Union has had tremendous success," he said. "I was there before when they were trying to win that first national championship. Wabash is in that same position. I think it's a pretty fine line between making the playoffs and winning it all. It's not a huge gap."

Raeburn said recruiting is key, along with making little improvements along the way. He hopes to start early next week and also said he will keep all the current assistant coaches.

"It's so difficult to win that national championship," he said. "If you make it to the final eight, you obviously have tremendous talent. It's just a matter of trying to make little improvements and getting over the hump."