Michael Toerper selected as next Ithaca Football head coach
ITHACA, NY – After an extensive national search, Susan Bassette ’79, associate vice president and director of Intercollege Athletics and Recreational Sports, is thrilled to announce that Michael Toerper (Ter-per) has been named the next head coach of Ithaca College’s football program. Toerper will officially begin his appointment on March 1.
“It is with a twinkle in my eyes and joy in my heart that I welcome Michael back to Ithaca to become our new head football coach,” said Bassett. “Coach Toerper emerged from an exceptionally competitive national search as the top next leader for Ithaca College football. Through this rigorous search, Coach Toerper effectively articulated a vision for the program in all phases , recruitment, x’s and o’s, and training for academic excellence and our citizenship in the community, which has earned the unanimous trust of everyone involved in this important selection process.
“Coach Toerper exudes passion, knowledge of the game and leadership qualities and exemplifies Bomber’s values of commitment, attention to detail, respect and integrity. on the success of our student-athletes on the playing field, in the classroom, and as members of the community. I am thrilled to welcome Michael and his wife, Leigh (Martino) ’15, back to South Hill,” Bassett said.
He succeeds Dan Swanstrom, who announced Jan. 24 that he would leave after five seasons as head coach to become offensive coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania.
Toerper, no stranger to the IC program, served as the Bombers’ defensive coordinator from 2017-19. He then left to become the Division I Holy Cross safety coach for the past two seasons and has helped to make this Crusaders defense one of the best units in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in 2021.
“My family and I are thrilled to be returning to South Hill. I want to thank Susan Bassettethe Football Alumni Review Committee and the Campus Search Committee for their support throughout the process,” Toerper said.
“From the first moment I arrived at Ithaca College in 2017, it was evident that the athletic traditions and support from alumni was second to none. I am beyond grateful to have the opportunity to lead a group of players talent alongside a motivated coaching staff,” Toerper said.
Holy Cross, who went 10-3 and won the Patriot League, reached the second round last fall after earning the program’s first-ever FCS playoff victory in the first round against Sacred Heart, 13 -10. The Crusader defense allowed just 254.5 yards (ranked 1st in FCS) and 18.5 points per game (ranked 14th). Holy Cross also intercepted the fourth most passes in the nation with 18, returning three for touchdowns.
“I would like to thank Bob Chesney and the Holy Cross coaching staff for their guidance and support over the past two seasons. Having the opportunity to be part of the Holy Cross program and build relationships with the players is something I will always cherish,” Toerper said.
During his time as defensive coordinator with the Bombers, Toerper turned three players into All-Americans – Pat Minogue, John Hadac and Nick Garone.
In his first season as defensive coordinator, in 2017, Toerper guided a stingy unit that allowed just 15.3 points and 284.6 yards per game — the lowest in both categories since 2012. Seven players defense have won post-season Liberty League awards.
In the 2018 campaign, IC’s defense was even more dominant. Ithaca allowed 12.8 points per game and 259.5 yards. The defensive unit ranked among the best in the nation all season in points allowed, rushing yards allowed, total defense and third down conversion percentage. At the end of the regular season, all 11 starters on defense were named All-Liberty League, and Minogue was named Liberty League Defensive Player of the Year, as well as First-Team All-American by the AFCA and Third- Team. All-American by D3football.com.
In 2019, Hadac and Garone were named All-Americans under Toerper’s leadership.
A 2008 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Toerper spent seven years at Johns Hopkins University before coming to IC. While at Hopkins, Toerper spent three seasons (2010-12) as wide receivers coach and was elevated to special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach in 2013. He also took on took over as scouting coordinator in 2014. Hopkins won Centennial Conference championships all seven seasons Toerper was on the team.
Under his guidance as receivers coach, the Blue Jays averaged 473 total rushing yards per game. Toerper mentored 2010 Centennial Conference Offensive Player of the Year Sam Wernick, who caught 69 passes for 1,265 yards and 17 touchdowns that season. He also oversaw the development of Dan Wodicka, who finished his Hopkins career with 260 receptions for 3,148 yards, both of which rank second all-time in college.
After his stint on the other side of the ball, Toerper coached the 2016 Centennial Conference Defensive Player of the Year to Jack Toner, an AFCA first-team All-American. The Blue Jay pass defense led the Centennial Conference and ranked among the top 25 nationally in defensive effectiveness under Toerper. Nine different defensive backs, as well as a place kicker, were appointed in all conferences under his leadership.
Prior to arriving in Baltimore to work at Hopkins, Toerper spent a season as a defensive assistant at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
As a Division I Pitt Panthers player, the York, Pennsylvania native appeared in 36 games over three seasons as a defensive back and special teams contributor. He got a scholarship with the program after joining the team as an extra.
“I would like to thank our Football Alumni Review Committee, chaired by Marc Hudak ’90; our Department Search Committee; and our campus colleagues who interviewed the applicants. Their input into this process has been incredibly valuable. to make this important hire,” Bassette said.
Toerper and his wife, Leigh — a former Ithaca track star and 2015 graduate — have a son, Jay.
“I can’t wait to get started. It’s a great day to be a bomber,” Toerper concluded.
— Ithaca Bomber Football (@IthacaBomberFB) February 18, 2022
Many members of the Ithaca College community were involved throughout this research process.
The main research committee consisted of Susan BassetteChair; Sean Fitzmauriceassistant director of sports; Erienne Roberts, Deputy Director of Athletics; coaches Mindy Quigg, Kaitlyn Wahilaand John Dufer; Jim Yagie, Professor of Health Sciences and Human Performance; and Mead Loop, journalism professor and director of the Sports Media Program.
A committee of former IC football players was also formed to review the candidates: Marc Hudak ’90, Bob Garone ’87, Todd Wilkowski ’93, Tom Heinzelman ’74, Dan Juvan ’09, Joe Palumbo ’94, Tariq Ahmad ’04, and Tristan Brown ’18.
Once on campus, the finalists met face-to-face with the following people: the search committee, faculty athletics representative Barb Belyea; Vice President of Student Affairs and Campus Life Rosanna Ferro; athletic trainers Todd Lazenby and Kyle Morris; representatives of the Admissions Office; Associate Professor of Exercise and Sport Science Greg Shelley Senior Associate Director of Student Financial Services Barbie Bargher; head coaches and sports communications staff; the current senior football team; and athletic support staff.