University of Akron officials believe they’ve found their coaching star in Tom Arth. Arth has been hired as the new football coach after the team fired Terry Bowden at the end of the season. Arth, 37, is a Westlake native who has deep roots in Northeast Ohio as a player and coach.
A local football star
WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says Arth was a standout quarterback at Cleveland St. Ignatius High School who went on to become a Division III All-American at John Carroll University. He made it to the NFL as a backup to quarterback Peyton Manning for three years. "Manning was one of the people who gave a robust endorsement for Tom Arth to get the job at Akron," Pluto said.
John Carroll hired Arth as an assistant and within a few years, he was named head coach. "The previous seven years, they were 35-35. In 2013, Tom Arth moved up and the next four years, they won 10 games every year and made the playoffs." His record at John Carroll was 40-8.
But Pluto said he had a feeling Arth wouldn't be at John Carroll long. "He had this certain charisma. He is not, with five kids, going to just sit at John Carroll making $65,000 a year."
For the last two seasons, Arth has been coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, which is in the FBS, right below Division I. "He got a nice bump in salary at $185,000 to coach there," Pluto said.
A pay increase
At Akron, Arth will be paid $500,000 a year. "Which is just slightly more than Terry Bowden was making and actually in the bottom half of what Mid-American Conference coaches are paid and probably in the bottom 10 percent of what Division I coaches are paid."
Checking all the boxes
But Pluto says Arth checked all the boxes for Akron. "One, they were hoping to get someone who was a head coach somewhere else, not just an assistant. Secondly, they wanted him to have Northeast Ohio connections. And thirdly, they thought he would come in with a name with a little sizzle and give the program a little attention."
And Pluto says Arth is positioned to do something that his predecessor didn't. "Bowden had a lot of kids from Akron, Canton and Youngstown. But he could not seem to penetrate the Cleveland market -- powerhouse schools like St. Ignatius, Cleveland Benedictine, St. Edwards or Mentor. Those kids seemed to be going to Toledo or one of the Michigans."
"If this guy doesn't start to win at Akron, I don't know who's going to do it. Then it's just like, there's something about Akron -- maybe the city campus or whatever, you just can't get guys to go play there. Maybe the theory is they can't get the right coach."