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BOZEMAN - Montana State football coach Rob Ash is the Liberty Mutual coach of the year for the Football Championship Subdivision.

The award recognizes coaches for their on-field accomplishments as well as their team's sportsmanship, academic achievement and commitment to community service and charitable endeavors.

The winners were announced Monday in New Orleans.

Les Miles of top-ranked LSU was honored in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Tim Beck of Pittsburgh State in Kansas was honored in Division II and Glenn Caruso of St. Thomas of Minnesota was honored in Division III.

Ash has posted a 39-20 record in five seasons at MSU, including a 19-6 mark the past two seasons during which the Bobcats won a share of the Big Sky Conference championship and earned a spot in the FCS playoffs.

Since Ash's hiring, the academic progress of MSU football players has improved and two Bobcats earned regional or national academic all-America honors this fall. In the past year, Ash and his players and coaches have compiled over 800 hours of community service benefiting Big Brothers/Big Sisters programs, local elementary schools and other organizations in the Bozeman area. Ash is also involved in Coach to Cure MD, is a spokesman for the United Way and the Jason Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing youth suicide.

"I think (the award) is a great tribute to the concepts I tried to bring to the program when I first got here," Ash told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle (http://bit.ly/An8odZ ). "When I got here, I said we wanted to win on the field and also be successful academically and in the community. That's the thing this award recognizes."

The Liberty Mutual award includes $50,000 to be donated to charities of the coaches' choice along with a $20,000 donation to each school's alumni association.

Ash said he plans to designate his money to Greater Gallatin United Way and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwest Montana.

"This is a tremendous honor for Rob Ash and for Montana State football," said athletic director Peter Fields. "His values embody those of Montana State University, and he puts them into action both on and off the field."

The award is voted on by fans, the media and members of the College Football Hall of Fame.

"I have to thank our fans and our boosters because there's a voting component that is a part of the preliminaries, at least, and I know our fans rallied and voted, some of them faithfully every day for a while," Ash told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Other finalists for the FCS award were Rob Ambrose of Towson, Tom Gilmore of Holy Cross, Jerry Moore of Appalachian State and Chris Mussman of North Dakota.

In addition to the award, Ash has a spot on the 50-yard line to watch the Bowl Championship Series national title game between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama, the Chronicle reported.

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