In 1974, all athletic programs at CMU held Division I status except for the football team, which still played at the Division II level. That year, CMU’s football team had an outstanding season and amassed a 9-1 regular season record. The team’s success carried into the Division II playoffs. With victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals, Central Michigan’s team earned a spot in the Camellia Bowl—and won. Four days after the CMU Chippewas walked away with the victory and championship, CMU petitioned the NCAA to have the football program elevated to Division I status. The NCAA immediately obliged.
Since 1974, the CMU football team has won seven conference championships. This year, the team will be led by John Bonamego, the 28th head football coach in CMU history. Bonamego, who played football at CMU in the 1980s, has 27 years of college and professional experience, including 16 years in the NFL, the past two seasons (2013-2014) as special teams coordinator of the Detroit Lions.
A February 2015 Central Michigan Athletic Communications article quotes Bonamego: “Since I left CMU in 1987, my dream job was to be the head coach of the Central Michigan football program. … We will work every day to achieve the championship level. Our team will compete with a strong passion and work ethic in everything we do, from on the field, to in the classroom and in the community.”
Photo and history contributed by Clarke Historical Library, Mount Pleasant.