By Chris Chaney
Spartanburg, South Carolina, home of Wofford University, is nearly 450 miles away from Clermont County, but two of the county’s own are the reason the Terriers’ football program is among the best in the nation in Division I-AA.
Head coach Mike Ayers, a graduate of Glen Este High School and director of strength and conditioning, Todd Riedel, a graduate of Amelia High School, both have made their way from the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio down to South Carolina where they live within minutes of each other and share an employer.
The road to Wofford University was very different for the two men, but the reason they both are successful at Wofford comes down to the values instilled in them during their time here in Clermont County.
“We’re both blue-collar guys from Clermont County,” Riedel said of himself and the coach’s ability to climb the ranks of college football throughout the country. “We had to work hard for everything we got.”
Although the two differ in age by some 30 years, their paths were both full of stints all over the nation, proving their worth and gaining the necessary experience to land them the jobs they hold today.
Ayers’ march to Spartanburg began long before Riedel was even born. Graduating from Glen Este in 1966, Ayers went to Georgetown College in Kentucky where he played football, baseball and wrestling.
Following his undergraduate studies, Ayers began his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 1974 at Georgetown. He was later promoted to defensive coordinator before spending three years at Newberry College in South Carolina.
“I coached at Newberry for three years before becoming the defensive backs coach at the University of Richmond (Va.) and then I came to Wofford as a assistant in 1980,” Ayers said of his coaching carousel. “I was here for 1981, ’82 and ’83 before I left to go to East Tennessee State as a defensive coordinator. I was up there for two years and then became the head coach for three and then 25 years ago, I came back to Wofford.”
Ayers has led the Terriers from 1988 on, beginning as an NAIA school, then a Division II team and then in 1996, after much success, Ayers took the Terriers into Division I and the Southern Conference.
“It’s been a great 25 years,” Ayers said. “I got a tremendous opportunity and it’s been a blessing for me and my family. We’ve been fortunate enough to be successful, winning three southern conference championships and we’ve made it to the playoffs the last three years.”
Riedel’s journey to Wofford began following his graduation from the College of Mount Saint Joseph in 2001. Playing four years of football at the Mount, Riedel coached and taught at Clermont Northeastern and Purcell Marian before deciding to go back to school to get his Masters degree.
Fulfilling his internship requirements for his Masters of Education in Sports Administration, Riedel worked at Xavier University, Harvard and West Virginia before working at Colgate University where he assisted with the football team.
From Colgate, Riedel moved on to Western Kentucky University where he worked with the football, soccer, tennis and cheerleading programs. After a year there, Riedel went to Missouri State for a year where he was the associate director of strength and conditioning for the Bears.
Riedel became aware of the opening at Wofford and through some contacts he had from Clermont County, he called and left Ayers a voicemail stating that he was interested in the position.
Riedel was hired in June of 2010 and now is in his third season with the Terriers.
“We had the strength coach opening and Todd applied,” Ayers said. “He’s a hard worker and very knowledgeable. He’s done a great job for us.”
While both admit that their coming together was purely coincidence, their connection to Clermont County is something that they are both proud of.
Riedel and his staff train the Terriers football team very hard to run Ayers’ triple-option offense and Ayers and his staff are taking the work put in by the strength team and turning them into victories on the field.
The Terriers are 8-2 on the year and clinched a share of the Southern Conference title with a 16-13 overtime win over Chattanooga last week. Wofford has cracked the top-10 in the national rankings, coming in at No. 9 this week in the Sports Network FCS Top-25 rankings.
The Terriers will have their regular-season finale this week against South Carolina before heading into the FCS Playoffs.