Elliot Uzelac

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Elliot Uzelac
Current position
TitleHead coach
TeamBenton Harbor HS (MI)
Biographical details
Born (1941-07-21) July 21, 1941 (age 77)
Playing career
1961–1963Western Michigan
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1965Bowling Green (GA)
1966–1967Logan HS (WV)
1968–1969Bowling Green (OL)
1970Bowling Green (OC)
1971–1972Navy (OL)
1973–1974Michigan (OL)
1975–1981Western Michigan
1982–1986Michigan (OL)
1990Indiana (assistant)
1991Ohio State (OC)
1992Cleveland Browns (assistant)
1993–1994Colorado (OC)
1995–1996Kentucky (OC)
1997Minnesota (OC/OL)
1998–2000Maryland (OL)
2002–2003St. John's College HS (DC)
2004–2005Georgetown (OC)
2006–2010St. Joseph HS (MI)
2015–presentBenton Harbor HS (MI)
Head coaching record
Overall46–64 (college)
Accomplishments and honors
MAC Coach of the Year (1976)

Elliot Uzelac (born July 24, 1941) is an American football coach. Currently he is the head coach at Benton Harbor High School in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Uzelac was the head coach at Western Michigan University from 1975 to 1981 and at the United States Naval Academy from 1987 to 1989. He compiled a 38–39 record at Western Michigan and an 8–25 record with Navy. In June 2018, Elliot Uzelac resigned as Benton Harbor football coach.[1]

Playing career[edit]

A native of Gary, Indiana, Uzelac played high school football at Tolleston High School. He graduated from Western Michigan University in 1964 with a degree in physical education. A knee injury ended his football playing career before he could letter at Western Michigan, but he was Mid-American Conference outdoor shot put champion as a senior.

College coaching career[edit]

Before St. Joseph, Uzelac coached at Bowling Green University, the University of Michigan, Indiana University, Ohio State University, the University of Colorado, the University of Kentucky, the University of Minnesota, the University of Maryland, and the NFL's Cleveland Browns. Most stops were for one or two years, while the longest he stayed at any one school was his seven-year tenure as head coach at Western Michigan University. Along the way he has coached under or alongside Bo Schembechler, Lloyd Carr, Bill McCartney, Don Nehlen, Bill Mallory, Les Miles, and Bill Belichick.

While head coach at Navy, Uzelac had several notable assistants, including Tom Amstutz, Chuck Bresnahan, Steve Belichick, Dean Pees, and Carl Reese. Some assistants had connections to the University of Michigan as either past or future coaches, including Fred Jackson, Greg Mattison, and Mike Trgovac.

While Uzelac has had number of stints in college football as a head coach and as an assistant, his most famous incident occurred in 1991 while he was the offensive coordinator at Ohio State. Uzelac encouraged and pressured players to skip class so they could make practice. This prioritization of football over academics did not sit well with Robert Smith, future Minnesota Vikings running back, who spoke up about the issue. As a result, Smith sat out the season. The next season Uzelac was fired and Smith returned to the team.[2][3]

High school coaching career[edit]

Uzelac began his coaching career as an assistant at Chesterton (IN) High School in 1964.

He was head coach at Logan (WV) HS in 1966-67, compiling a 16-4 record and winning a league championship.

From 2002–2003, Uzelac coached football at St. John's College High School in Washington, D.C.

In April 2006, Uzelac returned to the state of Michigan to coach at St. Joseph High School. Uzelac led the Bears to a 6–5 record in 2006 after the team went 0–9 the previous season. During the 2007 season, Uzelac led the Bears to a 9–0 regular season record and the Final Four of Michigan high school football. The team won the Big 16 Conference and was named the West Division champions, Division 3 district champions, and Division 3 regional champions. Coach Uzelac was also named 2007 High School Coach of the Year by the Michigan Associated Press. In 2008, Uzelac led the Bears to another 9–0 season and another Big 16 Conference title. The team was ranked #1 in the state for their undefeated season in Division 3.

He resigned as head coach at. St. Joseph on June 29, 2011, with a record of 45-13. He later took on coaching the Benton Harbor Tigers football team, a team that had not won a game since 2012 and had a record of 4-68 in the previous eight years. In 2015, his first season there, he led the Tigers to their first winning record since 1989, their first playoff appearance, and their first victory in a playoff game. In his second season, he led the Tigers to an undefeated 9-0 regular season.

Personal life[edit]

Uzelac is known for his temper and intensity and has had a history of coronary artery disease that has led to multiple surgical procedures.[4]

Head coaching record[edit]


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Western Michigan Broncos (Mid-American Conference) (1975–1981)
1975 Western Michigan 1–10 0–7 9th
1976 Western Michigan 7–4 6–3 4th
1977 Western Michigan 4–7 3–5 7th
1978 Western Michigan 7–4 5–4 4th
1979 Western Michigan 6–5 5–4 3rd
1980 Western Michigan 7–4 6–3 2nd
1981 Western Michigan 6–5 5–4 T–5th
Western Michigan: 38–39 30–30
Navy Midshipmen (NCAA Division I-A independent) (1987–1989)
1987 Navy 2–9
1988 Navy 3–8
1989 Navy 3–8
Navy: 8–25
Total: 46–64

Coaching tree[edit]

Assistant coaches under Elliot Uzelac who became NCAA head coaches:


  1. ^ STAFF, HP. "Uzelac resigns as BH football coach". The Herald Palladium. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  2. ^ Murphy, Austin (September 9, 1991). "Goodbye, Columbus". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  3. ^ "Cooper coaches, Smith tests, Uzelac taken ill". The Blade. August 31, 1991. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  4. ^ "Video". CNN. September 9, 1991.