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Citadel News Service

Office of Public Affairs

For immediate release
December 20, 2000

For more information on the appointment of Ellis Johnson, see the Citadel Sports website

Ellis Johnson named Citadel's head football coach

Ellis Johnson, recognized as one of the nation's best defensive coordinators and linebacker coaches, has been named The Citadel's 21st head football coach. Maj. Gen. John S. Grinalds, president of The Citadel, and Director of Athletics Les Robinson made the announcement at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Johnson replaces Don Powers, who guided the Bulldogs for the past five seasons. Powers resigned on November 15.

A veteran coach of 25 years, Johnson was most recently the defensive coordinator at Alabama and he now returns to his alma mater, where he graduated in 1975. He also spent time as the Bulldogs' linebackers coach in 1982 and defensive ends coach in 1975, his first coaching opportunity

"Ellis Johnson helps usher in a new era of Citadel football," said Gen. Grinalds. "We're very happy to have him return to The Citadel and lead a program to which he has made contributions as both a player and assistant coach. I also applaud the professional approach that Director of Athletics Les Robinson has taken with this exhaustive search," Grinalds added. "We are pleased with the way the search was conducted and are certain that the best possible candidate was selected."

Les Robinson, who is making his first major coaching hire since becoming director of athletics in September, said he's known Ellis Johnson for about 30 years and has "always been impressed with him not only as a football coach but as a person." "He has the confidence, ability, organizational skills and all of the needed attributes in order to make a successful head football coach here at The Citadel."

"The fact that he played here and coached here are a bonus, however, I have confidence that he would have been a good selection if he hadn't played or coached here," Robinson continued. "But it does enhance his chances to be successful."

The new head football coach said leading the Bulldog football program was a job he always knew he wanted. "I have been fortunate to do what I've wanted to do for a living, and now to be the head coach at a place where I want to be is very special."

Johnson brings a varied background to The Citadel, having coached on the high school, small college, I-AA and major college levels. He was a linebackers coach on Alabama's 1992 national championship team, has coached in a total of nine bowl games, including the Sugar Bowl (where the undefeated Alabama team won the national title), Orange Bowl, Gator Bowl, Peach Bowl, Music City Bowl and the Blockbuster Bowl. He has also coached 19 players who have made NFL rosters.

A native of Winnsboro, S.C., Johnson graduated from Winnsboro High School and played defensive end for coach Bobby Ross' teams at The Citadel graduating with a degree in secondary education in 1975. His coaching career began under Ross with the 1975 team, leading the defensive ends.

Johnson joined the high school coaching ranks for the next six seasons, serving as an assistant at two prominent upstate schools, Gaffney High (1976-78) and Spartanburg High (1979). He was promoted to the head coaching position at Spartanburg High and remained in that capacity for two seasons (1980-81) before returning to Charleston to coach the linebackers in 1982 under coach Art Baker.

He was named head coach at Gardner-Webb for the 1983 season, where the Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the NAIA District 26 and then left to become defensive coordinator at Appalachian State (1984). He moved and joined Art Baker's staff at East Carolina coaching the outside linebackers and serving as recruiting coordinator from 1985-87, and then became the defensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi for the 1988 and '89 seasons.

Johnson had his first stint at Alabama coaching the outside linebackers for the 1990-93 seasons before moving to Clemson to coach the outside linebackers for the 1994-95 campaigns and then served as the Tigers' defensive coordinator for the 1996 season. He returned to Alabama as defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach in 1997 where he had been until being named head coach at The Citadel.

Johnson, born December 23, 1951, is married to the former Caroline Courie of Columbia. The Johnsons are the proud parents of a newborn son, Laurens Ellis Johnson, Jr., who was born December 6, 2000.

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