Winningest Head Football Coach Ron Ernst retiring after 32 years with Ripon

Red Hawks’ head football coach and defensive coordinator Ron Ernst has officially announced he will retire from Ripon College at the end of the 2022 season — his 32nd at the helm.

During his head coaching career at Ripon, Ernst had led the Red Hawks to 184 wins and 113 losses, making him the winningest football coach in both the Midwest Conference (MWC) and Ripon College history.

Ernst has led the Red Hawks to 26 winning seasons, producing a .614 win percentage, capturing three MWC North Division titles (1995, 1996 and 1997) and two MWC Championships (1996 and 2001). Ernst was named MWC Coach of the Year in 1996 when he led the team to a school-record nine-win season. He also has been named the NCAA Division III Region 5 Coach of the Year (1995) and the Wisconsin Football Private College Coach of the Year on three occasions (2001, 2008 and 2010). In 2006, Ernst was inducted into the Ripon College Hall of Fame, and in March 2009 he earned a spot in the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) Hall of Fame.

Of his proudest accomplishments as head coach, Ernst noted, “There are so many.” At the top of his list is seeing his players graduate and go on to be successful members of society, as well as seeing former players make the Ripon College Athletics Hall of Fame. Ernst also includes producing three Private College Players of the Year: Bill Schultz ’97, Troy DeVoe ’02 and Josh Kraemer ’09.

Ernst described his decision to retire after the 2022 season as bittersweet, saying, “It’s all I’ve done for 42 years. The biggest thing I’m going to miss are the relationships that I’ve had with the players and my fellow coaches. Seeing the players grow from young, immature freshmen to mature men as seniors ready to head out into the world and do great things, I’m really going to miss that — helping young men navigate life from the ages of 18 to 22.”

In tandem with coaching, Ernst also took on the role of assistant athletic director and professor of exercise science at Ripon. He served as the College’s sports information director for a limited time in the late ’90s and early 2000s as well as head golf coach.

“Ron has dedicated most of his professional life to Ripon College and the Ripon College football program, and he has left a significant and lasting impact on both our school and our team,” said Ryan Kane, director of athletics. “We wish Ron, his wife, Janet, and his family all the best in a truly well-deserved retirement.”

During retirement, in addition to traveling and spending time with his grandchildren, Ernst and his wife plan to attend as many Red Hawks football games as possible under the direction of Jake Marshall, who will take over as the new head coach in the 2023 season. Marshall joined the Ripon College football coaching staff in December 2016 and currently serves as associate head coach and offensive coordinator.

He previously worked at fellow MWC school Beloit College, where he served in a variety of roles for three years, including offensive coordinator during the 2016 season.

Marshall graduated from Ripon in 2010. While playing quarterback for the Red Hawks, he earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management. As a senior, Marshall served as team co-captain, while also being voted the team’s offensive MVP after tying a school record with 19 rushing touchdowns. His 114 points ranked fourth in NCAA Division III that season and is third in school history for a single season.

“Six years ago, we started thinking about succession planning when looking for a new assistant coach,” Ernst said. “Reaching out to Jake Marshall, who played for me and I’ve had the opportunity to coach against, was an easy choice. As a player, he was certainly great, but he possessed other qualities that made him a natural leader. (Marshall) always wanted what was best for the team; he encouraged others to be their best and held them accountable. He is energetic and has an outstanding offensive mind with a proven ability to recruit — all qualities that are going to make him an outstanding head coach.”

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