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Master of the mismatch

Andy Coen takes over a Lehigh program that has won 81.3 percent of its games since 1998.

Back in the early 1980s, Andy Coen surprised some folks by going straight from Cherry Hill East (N.J.) High School into a starting role as an offensive guard with Gettysburg College.

His maturity and his ability to quickly grasp the team's Wing-T offense as a teenager impressed both his head coach, the highly successful Barry Streeter, and his offensive line coach, Kevin Higgins (yes, that Kevin Higgins).

So did Coen ever act his age as an undergrad?

“Oh yeah,” Streeter recalls. “There was that time as a freshman that he did a cartwheel as he was coming off the field following a touchdown drive against Dickinson. Part of me was impressed that an O-lineman in full pads could do a cartwheel. The other part of me was immediately in his face, yelling at him.”

When reminded of his Mary Lou Retton-in-shoulder pads routine from more than two decades ago, Coen first blushed before defending himself.

"Coach Streeter questioned my energy level in practice just days before that game," Coen says. "It was my way of showing that I had plenty of energy."

Twenty-plus years later, Coen, who was named Lehigh's new head football coach in January, remains a high-energy guy whose teams have a knack for lighting up scoreboards.

Prior to being named to replace Pete Lembo, who left Lehigh for Elon (N.C.) University on Dec. 18, Coen spent the past six seasons as offensive coordinator for the University of Pennsylvania, where he led the Quakers to three top-10 national rankings in scoring.

Coen previously was Lehigh's offensive line coach for six years under his former offensive line coach Higgins, and doubled as Lehigh's offensive coordinator for four seasons.

"Andy is a perfect fit for Lehigh," says Penn head coach Al Bagnoli. "He's so adept at coming up with offensive schemes that result in mismatches, and then he's great at taking full advantage of those mismatches. Plus, guys play their hearts out for Andy.

"He'll enjoy great success there."

Coen certainly did during his first stop at Lehigh, when he was a part of two Patriot League championship teams, including the 12-1 squad in 1998.

"I'm fortunate to be the head coach here," Coen says. "Most first-time head coaches get a real fixer-upper. Instead, I'm taking over a program that has been really successful under both Kevin (Higgins) and Pete (Lembo) and that has a promising young quarterback in Sedale Threatt.

"This school has all the resources to win big."

Higgins, for one, thinks Lehigh has made the right choice.

"Andy's a great hire," Higgins says. "First, he understands the university's climate and knows what it takes to be successful there. Second, Andy has great people skills, so he'll recruit well and get people to play hard. And third, he understands how to put the ball in the end zone."

If Coen is half as good as advertised (particularly in November against a certain college in Easton, Pa.), then he'll have Lehigh fans everywhere doing cartwheels.

--Bill Doherty

Lehigh Alumni Bulletin Online
June 2006

Posted on Friday, June 23, 2006

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