Head Coach John Banaszak
John Banaszak is the second head football coach in Robert Morris University history as he will lead the program in his third season in 2016.
Robert Morris showed signs of growth in Banaszak’s second season at the helm in 2015 as RMU won three games in which it trailed in the second half while a school record eight Colonials won Northeast Conference (NEC) weekly honors, including true freshman quarterback Mathew Barr, who was a two-time honoree. Under Banaszak, Kyle Buss became the first Colonial to be named a finalist for National Freshman of the Year, as he was part of a program that achieved a three-win improvement from the season prior.
Multiple phases of the Robert Morris specials teams, which continues to be overseen by Banaszak, thrived in 2015. RMU scored a program record three touchdowns on special teams in 2015, including a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the longest in school history. Warren Robinson ranked second nationally in punt return average in 2015 by netting 18.2 yards per return, breaking RMU’s single season school record in the process. The Colonials also broke the program record, and ranked second nationally, in kick return defense as the unit only allowed 14.7 yards per opponent return. The former defensive lineman also presided over a defense that tied the single-season school record in sacks (34) and ranked among the top 25 nationally in seven categories.
During the 2014 campaign, Banaszak led the Colonials to the largest comeback victory in school history while also turning the squad into one of the most disciplined in the country as RMU broke its program record for fewest penalty yards per game. He oversaw a youth infusion that saw a number of Colonials perform admirably in their first time on a collegiate stage. In fact, four distinct Colonials were named NEC Rookie of the Week during the course of 2014, setting a new school record while simultaneously tying a league record that had only been achieved once previously.
Banaszak officially became the RMU head coach in December 2013. He had been selected as Coach-In-Waiting in January 2012 at a press conference at the Charles L. Sewall Center, allowing for a simple transition following the 2013 campaign. He served as an assistant coach and assistant head coach for the Colonials for 11 consecutive years prior to taking over the top spot.
At the end of the 2013 season, not long before Banaszak was set to move into the head role, he was named as the Assistant Coach of the Year at the FCS level as selected by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). He was one of five coaches selected, each at different levels of college football, for dedication to their teams and communities. He was the first Robert Morris coach, as well as the first from the NEC, to claim this honor.
The 2013 season was Banaszak's sixth as assistant head coach for Robert Morris. Among his numerous duties with the program, he was responsible for tutoring the defensive line and the special teams unit.
Under Banaszak's guidance in 2013, Robert Morris led the NEC in net punting, punt return defense and punt return average while also placing second in the league in kickoff coverage. The Colonials actually ranked third nationally in punt returns as Banaszak guided Antwan Eddie to a single-season school record 405 punt return yards.
Banaszak was also a key component in instructing a RMU defense that finished second in the NEC in total defense within league play. Robert Morris finished its regular season ranked among the top 25 nationally in a number of defensive categories including third-down defense, first downs allowed, passing defense, red zone defense, passing efficiency defense, turnovers gained and total defense. He helped A.J. Holderman, a former fullback, enjoy a breakout campaign that saw him finish with 14.5 tackles for loss, the third-highest figure in RMU single-season annals.
With Banaszak's help in his assistant role, RMU led the NEC in total defense four times in 10 years (2004, 2006, 2009, 2010) and ranked among the top four spots nine times in 11 seasons.
Banaszak was a key component to a 2010 defense that led the NEC in total defense, allowing an average of 312.6 yards per game, and coaching a defensive line that recorded 13 of RMU's 21 sacks as the Colonials claimed the NEC's inaugural berth in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs.
In 2006, Banaszak helped tutor an RMU defense that led I-AA (now the FCS) in total defense, allowing an average of just 228.36 yards per game.
Ten of the 13 players in school history to earn All-NEC recognition on the defensive line have come under the tutelage of Banaszak, including Nolan Nearhoof (2009-12), who was named the 2012 NEC Defensive Player of the Year after breaking both the school and league records for career sacks.
Nearhoof would go on to earn All-America honors courtesy of The Sports Network, becoming the third Colonial defensive lineman to claim an All-America nod under Banaszak in a seven year span.
Under Banaszak's guidance, former defensive lineman Ray Gensler (2003-06) tied the RMU single-season school record for sacks with 11 in 2006 en route to earning All-NEC First Team honors. Gensler also established a then career record in sacks with 19 thanks to 11 in 2006, and the Robert Morris defensive line that season recorded 28½ of RMU's school record 34 sacks.
Former defensive linemen Jason Forrest (2002-05) and Mark Szymanski (2007-10) earned multiple All-NEC honors with the guidance of Banaszak, as Forrest was a three-time All-NEC selection and Szymanski garnered All-NEC accolades twice.
In addition, also earning All-NEC honors on the defensive line with the help of Banaszak were Will Weathers (2003), Babafemi Odumeru (2004), Matt Brunck (2006), Colyn Haugh (2006) and Forrest Mason (2013-15).
As much as Banaszak's presence has been felt on the defensive side of the ball, the same can be said on special teams. Eddie became the fifth different Colonial to win an award at return specialist in one decade’s time. Under Banaszak’s leadership, former Colonials Dante Settles (2000-04), Tyjuan Massey (2002-05), Mario Hines (2004-07) and Anthony Coleman (2008-11) garnered All-NEC honors at return specialist, the first players in RMU history to earn such a distinction.
Banaszak helped Coleman establish Robert Morris career records for kickoff returns (110) and kickoff return yards (2,422), while Hines owns Robert Morris single-game records for kickoff (165) and punt (112) return yards. Banaszak has also tutored the four Colonials, Settles, Hines, Eddie and Robinson, to return a punt for a touchdown.
Former punter Nick Schirztinger (2007-10) thrived under the tutelage of Banaszak, as he finished his career as arguably RMU's greatest punter ever. Schirtzinger, a three-time All-NEC selection, owned Colonial career records for punts (230), punting yards (9,290) and average yards per punt (40.4) when he completed his career.
Tony LaMancusa also performed well at punter under Banaszak as he earned his first All-NEC nod after the 2013 campaign. True freshman Connor Shennan also contributed in his first season on special teams in 2013 as his 61.8 average on kickoffs and 15 touchbacks helped the Colonials lead the league in both of those categories.
Prior to RMU, Banaszak served as the 30th head coach in Washington & Jefferson football history, leading the Presidents to a record of 38-9 (.809) in his four seasons on the sidelines between 1999 and 2002. In each of those four campaigns, he was named the Presidents' Athletic Conference Coach of the Year and ranks third on the college's all-time victory list. He helped W&J qualify for the NCAA Tournament in each of his four years as the Presidents registered wins in three of those appearances.
A graduate of Eastern Michigan with a bachelor's degree in health, physical education and recreation, Banaszak signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to the 1975 season and was one of only three rookies to make the defending Super Bowl champion team out of training camp.
Primarily a special teams player on Pittsburgh's Super Bowl X championship team, Banaszak started five games the following season and then started at both right end and inside tackle in 1977 before suffering a knee injury that forced him to the injured reserve list.
Between 1978 and 1980, Banaszak started 45 regular-season games at defensive end as the Steelers won back-to-back Super Bowl championships. In Super Bowl XIII, Banaszak recorded six tackles, including a pair of sacks, and a fumble recovery in a 35-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, which garnered him Defensive Player of the Game honors. The following year in Super Bowl XIV, Banaszak finished with five tackles and a sack in a 31-19 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
Upon completion of his stint with the Steelers, Banaszak spent the 1983 and 1984 seasons with the Michigan Panthers of the USFL. He then moved on to serve as a player/coach with the Memphis Showboats, also of the USFL, in 1985. While with the Showboats, Banaszak mentored former NFL standout Reggie White.
Banaszak and his wife, Mary, have three children. They reside in McMurray, Pa.