Kennan relishes Incarnate Word challenge

Larry Kennan has coached all over the country and all over the world, but there’s no other place he would rather be right now than in San Antonio coaching at the University of the Incarnate Word.

“I get to live my dream every day,” Kennan said. “I get to coach young people, which I'm best at. I love to teach them life and football and all that stuff. So life is real good today.”

Kennan was the executive director of the NFL Coaches Association for the 13 years prior to becoming the head coach of the Cardinals. He also spent 16 seasons as an NFL assistant, owns a championship ring from the Los Angeles Raiders Super Bowl XVIII win, and was the head coach of the London Monarchs when they won a World League of American Football championship in 1991.

The one thing he’s always liked doing in his career is taking on a challenge, and the test of building UIW into a winning program won’t be easy. UIW is a private Catholic university of about 10,000 students that started football in 2007 and is currently transitioning to the Southland Conference in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision.

“When you put a program together it's hard because, No. 1 we weren't a school everybody knew about,” Kennan said. “When you say Incarnate Word, people are like 'What?' So we had to get the word out. We worked real hard to get out, get in every high school and let the Texas high school coaches and players know who we are. That's really helped us. And of course if you win a couple of games that helps also.”

UIW was 2-9 in Kennan’s first year, but there are signs that the foundation is starting to take hold. The Cardinals have already matched last season’s win total and are 2-2. This includes 52-21 loss against highly regarded Sam Houston State that was in doubt all the way into the third quarter.

“I think Incarnate Word is a vastly improved football team,” Bearkats coach head coach Willie Fritz said.

That improvement should help continue to raise awareness and change perceptions about the UIW program, Kennan said. He said the main focus now is building relationships with high school players from all over Texas, especially in San Antonio, a bustling city that has grown to the seventh-largest in the country.

“Years ago, I was at SMU and Lamar, and San Antonio wasn't nearly as big of a city and there weren't nearly as many players,” Kennan said. “Any time you have population that is that big, you're going to have a lot of players. Plus, it's in Texas, so it's important. They have good high school programs here, and we plan on using that to our advantage.”

UIW has grown to become the fourth largest private university in Texas and with success on the field coming, Kennan said he could see a day when UIW is playing on an even bigger stage.

“I can see us in 10 years being a FBS team, competing with SMU, TCU and all those people,” Kennan said. “I can see that happening because we have great resources. We're in such a wonderful city. We’ve got leadership here. This place, this time, is the perfect situation for this school and for me.”