DAPHNE, Ala. – After spending nearly two decades as an assistant football coach at one of NCAA Division II’s most successful programs, United States Sports Academy alumnus Ernie McCook has been promoted to head football coach at the same program.
McCook spent 18 years as an assistant coach for the Rams of Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., working his way up from position coach to offensive coordinator to assistant head coach for legendary coach Monte Cater, who recently retired after 31 years. A successful offensive coach, McCook was promoted to head coach in January 2018.
McCook earned his Master of Sports Science degree in sports management from the Academy in 1999. He pursued his degree while continuing to work in the coaching field, first at Wesley College in Dover, Del., then at Shepherd.
“I knew that if I was going to be successful in coaching at a small college, I needed to have a master’s degree because I would have to teach as well as coach,” said McCook, who also teaches in Shepherd’s Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Sports Studies department.
“The Academy was great because it was flexible and I was able to finish my degree during the summers and stay in coaching. Studying at the Academy was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. I enjoyed the academic programs and the camaraderie I had with other students and my professors. The Academy gave me a great opportunity and I don’t think I would be where I am today without it.”
In the past 31 years under Cater’s leadership, the Rams amassed a 245-93-1 record with 17 conference titles and 13 postseason appearances. The Rams have been part of the Mountain East Conference for five years and are 48-2 with a 30-game conference winning streak during that time. McCook’s coaching played in a role in much of Shepherd’s success in the last 18 years. His offense has consistently ranked among the best in NCAA Division II and in 2017, the Rams averaged 45.6 points, 507 yards and 324 passing yards per game.
“I consider myself fortunate to have worked under one of the best coaches in college football,” McCook said. “I certainly have big shoes to fill. He taught me so much about what it means to be a college football coach and all the responsibilities – on and off the field – that go with it. He will be a tough act to follow.
“I think we can continue to be successful if we are consistent about what we do. We have to wake up each day and think, ‘how can we get better today?’ We have to compete and continue to challenge our players every day. Coach Cater left a great program in place; we just need to continue to grow and teach our players how to be good players and great men.
“I am very fortunate to be able to do what I am doing, and I attribute much of what I’ve been able to do to the Academy,” McCook said. “The Academy – because of its programs, teachers and reputation – was very important to my growth as a coach and as a person.
“I love coaching. I love the camaraderie of being around other sports minded coaches and young men who love the game of football. I love the fellowship of it. I love the competition and the planning and every aspect of the game. Being able to coach football is very special and I am blessed to be able to do it.
“Shepherd University is home to me. It is part of who I am and has been my family’s home for close to 20 years. I am so blessed to be part of this program.”
McCook earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Wesley College, where he was an offensive lineman for the school’s football team. Prior to coaching at Shepherd, McCook worked as an assistant at Frostburg State University in Maryland, Wesley College and Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. He also worked one season as an assistant football coach at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. He also spent time coaching at the high school level in Maryland.
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports.
The Academy is based in Daphne, Ala. For more information, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.