Surace ’90 named new football coach

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New head football coach Bob Surace ’90, center, with wife Lisa ’92 and Athletic Director Gary Walters ’67. (Courtesy Princeton Athletic Communications)

Bob Surace ’90, an assistant coach for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals and a former All-Ivy center at Princeton, was introduced as the Tigers’ new head football coach Dec. 23.

At a press conference, Surace outlined his overarching goals: “Hopefully, we’ll have a smart team, a tough team, a disciplined team, and a team that is an unselfish team. If we do those four things, I think we’ll be competitive with anybody.”

Surace, the first alumnus in more than 30 years to serve as Princeton’s head coach, will continue to coach Cincinnati until the end of the Bengals’ season, but he will begin assembling his coaching staff at Princeton as well. Athletic Director Gary Walters ’67 said the new coach’s background will help his transition from the NFL to the Ivy League. “He knows our institution, he knows our philosophy, and he’ll be able to educate through athletics,” Walters said.

The NFL schedule prevented Surace from seeing Princeton play in person last season, but he watched November’s Princeton-Yale game on television and said that the Tigers played “inspired football.” (Princeton won, 24-17.)

Surace had a successful two-year stint as head coach at Division III Western Connecticut State University before he joined the Bengals staff in 2001. He has spent eight years coaching in the NFL, serving as assistant offensive line coach for the last six.

“We are sad to see Bob go, but we’re excited for him and his family that he has achieved a career goal, being named head coach at Princeton,” Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis said in a news release. “Bob has been a huge part of our staff and of the success we’ve had. We wish him only the very best, and I know he will do a fine job for Princeton.”

As a player at Princeton, Surace started on the offensive line for three seasons, winning a share of the Ivy title as a senior in 1989. He blocked for two Asa S. Bushnell Cup (Ivy player of the year) winners, quarterback Jason Garrett ’89 and running back Judd Garrett ’90.

When asked about his plans for Princeton’s offense, Surace stressed flexibility, noting that the players in a given year often dictate a team’s style of play. Princeton’s 1988 team, for instance, threw the ball much more than its 1989 team because of Jason Garrett’s talent as a passer, he said.

Surace began his coaching career shortly after graduation, working with the running backs at Springfield (Mass.) College while earning a master’s degree in sports management. He is married to Dr. Lisa (Tanners) Surace ’92, and the couple has two young children.

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