Four Northeast Conference championships in the past seven seasons and the University's first trip to the NCAA FCS Playoffs in 2015 highlight the resume of 14th-year Duquesne football coach Jerry Schmitt.
A finalist for the 2015 STATS FCS Coach of the Year, Schmitt has seen seven players invited to NFL rookie camps over the past three seasons.
Last season, the Dukes put together a seven-game winning streak, their most wins in a row since the 2002 campaign. Duquesne landed a league-high 12 players on the All-NEC teams including First Team honoree and Offensive Player of the Year Tommy Stuart, who became the first Dukes player to garner the award. Stuart was also a finalist for the Walter Payton Award for the top offensive player at the FCS level.
In addition, Ben Huss, a four-year starter and all-conference selection on the offensive line was named an All-American in 2017 by the Associated Press, STATS FCS and HERO Sports while also becoming the first player from Duquesne to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
In 2016, Duquesne, which tied for the NEC title, was one of just four FCS programs with players among the finalists for the three major FCS individual awards. Linebacker Christian Kuntz finished 12th in the voting for the Buck Buchanan Award (top defensive player), quarterback Dillon Buechel was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award (top offensive player) and freshman A.J. Hines was named winner of the Jerry Rice Award (top freshman).
Schmitt, who played an important role in the development of the Duquesne football program as an assistant from 1985-87 and again from 1992-99, returned to the DU campus in 2005 after spending five years as head coach at his alma mater, Westminster College, in New Wilmington, Pa. The Pittsburgh native oversaw the program's move to the Northeast Conference and ensuing adoption of athletics-based aid in February of 2008.
It is a transition that has been an overwhelming success, as over the past seven seasons, Schmitt's Dukes have won more overall games (50) and conference games (30) than any NEC school. In addition, DU - which has at least shared four of the past seven NEC titles - is the only league school with five winning conference records in the past seven years.
Schmitt wasted no time putting his mark on the program by leading the Dukes to three consecutive Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Football League championships and earning MAAC Coach of the Year two times in his first three seasons as head coach.
In 2011, Schmitt continued Duquesne's transition as a scholarship-granting associate member of the Northeast Conference by guiding the Dukes to a 9-2 record and NEC co-Championship with a 7-1 record. The 2011 co-title was part of a gradual progression for the Dukes who finished the 2010 season with a 7-4 record and third place league finish with a 5-3 mark.
In 2013, Duquesne once again earned a share of the title - this time tying with Sacred Heart. The 2014 season saw the Dukes finish 6-6 overall.
In 2015, Duquesne went 5-1 in conference play, earning its first outright NEC title and the league's automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs, Duquesne's first.
Under Schmitt, the Dukes have fashioned a 35-19 record in NEC play over the past seven seasons after posting a 4-11 mark in their first two years while integrating a scholarship model.
In Schmitt's first season, the Dukes posted a 7-3 record (4-0 in the MAAC) - against the most challenging I-AA mid-major schedule a Duquesne team ever faced - and finished with a No. 3 national ranking in The Sports Network I-AA Mid-Major Top 10. The 2005 Dukes finished ranked No. 1 nationally in I-AA total defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense.
In year two, Schmitt again led DU to a 7-3 record (3-1 in the MAAC) and eighth consecutive MAAC championship as the Dukes finished ranked sixth in The Sports Network I-AA Mid-Major Top 10. The 2006 Dukes ranked second nationally in passing offense and 15th in total offense.
In 2007, Duquesne won a share of its ninth consecutive MAAC title in posting a 6-4 overall record. Five years ago the Dukes, in their first season as a scholarship program since the 1950s, went 3-7 in the school's inaugural season in the NEC and followed that with a 3-8 record in 2009.
In 2010, with DU's first scholarship class comprising a good portion of the sophomore and junior classes, the Dukes broke through with their third place NEC finish.
Winning titles at Duquesne is nothing new to Schmitt, who helped the Dukes to their first three MAAC championships in 1995, 1996 & 1999 and the school's first Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Bowl game in 1996, during his 11 years as an assistant.
Schmitt, who served under three different head coaches in Terry Russell (1985-87), Dan McCann (1992) and Greg Gattuso (1993-99), was the offensive coordinator for his last seven seasons at DU, during which time the Dukes posted a 53-21 record, won three titles and saw 16 different offensive players named First Team All-MAAC. He was promoted to assistant head coach by Gattuso prior to the 1994 season. Schmitt accepted the head coaching position at Westminster in March of 2000.
While at Westminster, Schmitt posted a 28-21 record in overseeing the Titans' transition from NCAA Division II to the Division III level. He led Westminster to an 8-2 mark including a 5-0 record against teams from the Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) in 2000. After a rebuilding campaign in 2001, Westminster continued to make strides under Schmitt's leadership in 2002, as the Titans finished 6-4 overall (4-1 in league play) and placed second in their first season of eligibility for the PAC title. In 2003, Westminster overcame a challenging non-conference schedule against scholarship teams to contend for the conference title in the final week of the season. In 2004, the Titans rallied from an 0-2 start to post wins in five of their last eight games.
Schmitt's offenses set five single-game records and produced four of the seven 1,000-yard rushers in school history. Forty-four of his players earned All-Conference honors in the three years his players were eligible for post-season recognition.
Prior to his first stop at Duquesne, Schmitt established himself at the high school level in western Pennsylvania where he served as head coach at South Fayette High School (1990-91), offensive and defensive line coach at Bethel Park High School (1989), offensive and defensive line coach at Avonworth High School (1988) and offensive and defensive line coach and junior varsity head coach at West Allegheny High School (1983-84).
In addition to his football coaching background, Schmitt served as head girls basketball coach at Beaver Area High School from 1987-99 and has also served as head track & field coach at West Allegheny High School (1984) and Weirton (W.Va.) Madonna High School (1983). Prior to returning to Westminster, Schmitt worked full time as a teacher in the Beaver Area school district from 1987-99.
A 1983 Westminster graduate, Schmitt was a three-year letterman and two-year starter on the offensive line under head coach Joe Fusco, leading the Titans to an undefeated regular season as a senior in 1981.
Schmitt, who graduated from Pittsburgh's Keystone Oaks High School in 1978 and his wife, Paula, who earned her master's degree at Duquesne, reside in Cranberry Township with their son Matthew Jake.