The Ferris State University Athletics Department officially announced the appointment of Tony Annese as the school's 13th head football coach on Thursday (Dec. 22) in an afternoon press conference held at the Wheeler Pavilion in Big Rapids. He was introduced to the media and public by FSU Athletics Director Perk Weisenburger following a nationwide search that yielded nearly 50 applicants.
A proven winner at all of his previous coaching stops and highly-regarded across the country, Annese will take over the Bulldog program immediately 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.
"We're excited to welcome Tony to Ferris State University and the Big Rapids community," Weisenburger said. "He clearly stood out in our search and is an outstanding teacher and coach with the ability to make a immediate impact on our program. He is extremely well respected and very well connected in our region of the country and has been highly successful in all of his previous positions. We are looking forward to what he will accomplish at Ferris."
The 50-year old Annese, who was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame 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 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.
"I'm excited and humbled about the opportunity to coach Division II football at Ferris," Annese said. "There is a tremendous football tradition at FSU and this is a great chance to follow in the footsteps of some outstanding coaches and teams that have been here in the past. We have a lot of work in front of us, but I'm looking forward to developing many new relationships and building opportunities to be successful."
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.
"I'm excited for him and Ferris State University football will be in good hands with Tony Annese," said former University of Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr. "His dad was a high school coaching legend and he had an incredible career at the prep level. I've known Tony since he coached here in Ann Arbor at Pioneer High School and I've really got to know him over the years. I recruited a few of his players and there was tremendous respect for him among high school coaches around the state.
"He's proven at Grand Rapids Community College that he can recruit and has just done an outstanding job at every level he's been. I'm delighted for Tony and Ferris," Carr added.
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 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 master's 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 has 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.
"Tony has had such great success and is an excellent football coach who's passionate about the game," said Jerry Kill, current head coach at the University of Minnesota. "He has a knack for getting kids to play hard. This is a great opportunity for him to continue his career at the collegiate level and I'm happy for him."
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 has been 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.
"Tony will be a great asset to Ferris State University and the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference," said GLIAC Commissioner Dell Robinson. "His community ties as a former high school and junior college coach along with his regional connections will create a wealth of excitement and we look forward to watching his progress in the years ahead."
Annese and his wife, Christine, have been married for more than 25 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.