When Dr. George Mihalik announced his retirement as the Slippery Rock head football coach last December it marked the end of an era for SRU. Mihalik had coached the Rock football team for 28 years and had been involved in the program for 44 years. Mihalik left the team having won three consecutive Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West division titles and back-to-back Conference Championships.
When looking for someone to replace the legendary coach, SRU athletic director Paul Luken did not have to look far. Former Slippery Rock defensive coordinator Shawn Lutz was named the next head coach of Slippery Rock football just days after Mihalik’s announcement.
At the time of his promotion, Lutz was in his 20th year as a part of Rock football, having started as a graduate assistant in 1996. In 2006 Lutz became the defensive coordinator and in 2012 he was named the associate head coach.
“The fact that coach Lutz was able to learn under coach Mihalik during that time, in a variety of roles…to me made the transition very easy,” Luken said. “I’m not going to call him (Lutz) coach Mihalik junior, because there’s not a coach Mihalik junior and there never will be, but his knowledge of the program, his involvement in successful teams here, I believe are all going to lead to his success here at The Rock, I really do.”
Lutz played tight end at West Virginia University, graduating in 1996 with a degree in secondary education before coming to SRU to complete his masters in safety management in 2003.
Lutz says his initial draw to Slippery Rock was his desire to win. When the team kept winning, Lutz continued to be promoted and moved up the ranks of the coaching staff, but that is not the only reason he has remained at SRU.
“Why I’ve stayed so long is just the family values it (the college) has here,” Lutz said. “Some places you go to you don’t get to see your families some places and I value the family and the brotherhood we have with this football team. Being able to balance between coaching and being with my family has kept me around a long time.”
While in charge of The Rock defense, Lutz put together on of the top defensive units in the nation last year. His defense led the nation in takeaways and was second against the run. However, Lutz is reluctant to take a lot of credit for his past successes.
“I don’t think this is about me,” Lutz said. “I’m in this position because of what former players and coaches have done to put me in this position. I don’t look at it as me, I look at it as our whole program and it’ll be exciting for our guys, some of our young guys, the new guys just for an opportunity to compete and win that first game.”
Lutz sees himself as being a very hands-on head coach, not just walking around and making sure everything is running smooth but often jumping in to coach certain position groups himself, saying plainly that he “just loves to coach football.”