news-category: Athletics

Gardner-Webb University Welcomes New Head Football Coach Cris Reisert

Coach Reisert and Dr. Downs at the podium

Reisert Promises to Build a Winning Program and Transformative Student Experience

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Gardner-Webb University welcomed new Head Football Coach Cris Reisert on Thursday, Dec. 14. Students, student-athletes, faculty and staff were joined by alumni, the community and media for the event held in the GW Football Center at Spangler Stadium.

Before introducing Reisert, President Dr. William M. Downs thanked Drew Turner and his colleagues at Collegiate Sports Associates for their expert guidance. He also expressed his appreciation to GWU Board of Trustees Chair Gary Smith who participated in the interview process, and Executive Assistant Stephanie Stearns for managing the travel arrangements. He also thanked everyone who worked to coordinate Reisert’s official welcome to Gardner-Webb.

Downs presented highlights from Reisert’s impressive record from 13 years of experience coaching in Divisions I and II. Reisert most recently spent five seasons as the head coach at Tiffin University, Ohio, where he compiled an overall record of 40-11 (.784 win pct.) and a Great Midwest Conference (GMAC) record of 32-4 (.889).

Downs declared, “Cris Reisert is everything we look for in a new coach. He’s everything we look for in a new leader. He’s everything we look for in a new colleague. He’s the right man at the right time to take Gardner-Webb football to its rightful place at the next level.”

Reisert joined Downs at the podium as the GWU Cheerleaders and Marching Bulldogs performed the school fight song. Downs presented the new coach the No. 1 football jersey.

Reisert expressed his thanks for the University’s hospitality and introduced his wife Emily, children Hawkins and Lennox, and his parents Tom and Nancy. He summed up his vision for the Runnin’ Bulldogs. “This is a program in a University that has no limits,” he observed. “The student-athlete experience that we’re going to provide for our players—that the University provides for its students—there’s no better place in the country to be a student-athlete than right here at Gardner-Webb University.”

He pledged, “We will prove that every single day through our work, through innovation, through faith in Jesus, and through an ability to connect and build relationships. I promise you, you will get a transformative student-athlete experience. We will win. I’ve won everywhere. I don’t mean that in a braggadocios way. I mean that in a truthful way. We will win football games, and we will win a national title. I don’t have a hard problem saying that. You might not believe it right now. I promise you; we will make a believer out of you. I promise you.”

At Tiffin, Reisert led his team to three GMAC championships (2019, 2020, 2023) and was named GMAC Coach of the Year in each of those championship seasons. This past season, his most successful team posted an 11-1 record, completing the regular season unbeaten before losing in the second round of the Division II national playoffs. With Reisert also handling offensive coordinator duties, the 2023 Tiffin Dragons finished ranked in the top 25 nationally in scoring offense (43.7 PPG, 6th), total offense (482.9 4th), scoring defense (16.2 PPG allowed, T-16th), and total defense (281.2 YPG allowed, 22nd).

During his tenure at Tiffin, Reisert’s other notable accomplishments included the first two Division II playoff berths in school history (2019 and 2023), the highest national ranking in school history (No. 9), and the program’s first win over its primary rival (University of Findlay) in 22 years. In total, Reisert’s team defeated Findlay three times in five meetings. Reisert’s 40 total wins in five seasons were the most career wins by any head coach in his first five seasons in Tiffin’s history.

Prior to Tiffin, Reisert spent two seasons as the offensive coordinator at his alma mater, Ohio Dominican University in Columbus. In seven seasons as the primary play caller, Reisert’s teams have averaged 38 points per game and 455 yards per game.

In his stops at Ohio Dominican and Tiffin, Reisert has built a reputation for leaving an immediate impact. In 2017, his first at Ohio Dominican, the offense improved by 11.5 points and 123 yards per game, as compared to the previous season. He authored the same success in year one at Tiffin (2019), boasting a 13-point and 83-yard improvement on average.

In 2021, Reisert was selected to the American Football Coaches Association’s 35 Under 35 list. Other stops in his coaching career include three seasons as tight ends coach at Elon University (2014-2016), one season as an assistant offensive line coach at Ball State University (2013), and two seasons in a prior stint at Ohio Dominican as the wide receivers coach (2011-2012).

As a player, Reisert started four years at quarterback for Ohio Dominican, where he was named the 2007 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Player of the Year and a two-time All-American. He was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2019.

Reisert holds a bachelor’s (2009) and master’s degree (2011) in business administration from Ohio Dominican.

Gardner-Webb University was assisted in this search by Drew Turner and Marcy Lanoue of Collegiate Sports Associates, a Raleigh-based executive search firm for athletics.

What they’re saying about Coach Cris Reisert:

“Cris is without a doubt one of the young superstars in the head coaching ranks. He has had to do it the hard way, without any privilege and on his own. He will do an outstanding job at Gardner-Webb, win games the right way, and help provide a tremendous experience for his student-athletes.”

  • Curt Cignetti, Head Football Coach, Indiana University

“Cris showed as a young coach that he had all of the leadership qualities and organizational ability to make an excellent head coach someday. I am not at all surprised at this great success at Tiffin and I am confident he is well prepared for this new opportunity at Gardner-Webb. He will quickly earn the trust of the players and the respect of the campus community.”

  • Pete Lembo, Associate Head Football Coach, University of South Carolina

“I couldn’t see Gardner-Webb making a better hire. Coach Reisert is an outstanding football coach, father, husband, and loves to mentor young people. He will always be on the cutting edge of the X’s & O’s, but a better job teaching and building relationships with his players”

  • Todd Goebbel, Special Teams, N.C. State University

“This hire is an absolute home run! Cris is a great leader, teacher, and communicator that will make a positive impact on the Gardner-Webb community each and every day. The future of GW Football is bright with Cris Reisert as the head football coach.”

  • Pat Dougherty, Special Teams, Duke University

“We are so excited for Coach Reisert and his family and this opportunity at Gardner-Webb. We are extremely proud of the progress we made under his direction at Tiffin University, not only as a coach but as an exemplary athletic leader. We wish him continued success and nothing but the absolute best.”

  • Dr. Lillian Schumacher, President of Tiffin University

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at Gardner-Webb.edu.

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