A homegrown star coach is returning to Northeast Ohio.
Tom Arth '99 has accepted an offer to become the next head coach of the Akron Zips. (Click here for Akron's release.)
"This is a very proud moment to hear Tom is coming back to Northeast Ohio," Wildcats' head football coach Chuck Kyle '69 said. "I'm proud of Tom for reaching this level of coaching. Tom did it the hard way, starting at Division III. This is a very proud moment."
Kyle served as a reference on Arth's application, recommending his protege for the job. Larry Williams, the athletic director at Akron, also has a Saint Ignatius connection. Two of his sons – Eric '12 and Louis '16 – graduated from Wildcat High. Eric Williams guided the Football Cats to a state title in 2011.
As Kyle alluded to, Arth's rise to Division I has involved plenty of hard work, but the Saint Ignatius alum is used to it.
Arth enrolled at Saint Ignatius as a small freshman with big hopes. Arth worked in the weight room and grew into a tall quarterback, earning a shot during his senior season.
As Coach Kyle recalls, Arth was a "late bloomer." However, once Arth took the reins, he didn't let them go. Arth developed into a great gunslinger, guiding the Wildcats to the State Semifinal in 1998. Arth and the Wildcats barely lost to the Canton McKinley Bulldogs, the eventual state champs, 31-24. Arth orchestrated a late comeback in the game, nearly leading the Wildcats to the state title game.
Just as Wildcats fans rabidly cheered on Arth during his high school years, they have enjoyed following his journey since.
Arth chose to attend John Carroll University after his graduation from Wildcat High. Arth starred at quarterback for the Blue Streaks, setting 18 school records. In 2002, Arth led the Blue Streaks to a 12-2 record, helping JCU earn its first berth to the NCAA Division III national semifinals in program history.
"As a JCU alum, along with Nick [Restifo], I loved seeing him contribute to that program," Kyle said. "Every week on Sunday morning, I loved reading the paper and seeing, 'Arth throws for a bunch of yards and leads JCU to a win.'"
Following a great career with JCU, Arth signed with the Indianapolis Colts. Arth spent three seasons as a backup to Peyton Manning, developing a friendship with the legendary quarterback. Arth learned a ton from the future Hall of Famer, establishing a base of knowledge he would draw upon as a coach.
All the while, Arth remained in contact with his high school coaches.
"We've always been close and kept in touch," said Nick Restifo, the Wildcats' longtime offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. "I've stayed in contact since high school. I've learned some great knowledge from him. He's always been gracious with sharing knowledge and explaining things to me when I've asked."
Following his stint with the Colts, Arth played with the Green Bay Packers, NFL Europe and the Arena Football League. Arth finished his playing career with great experiences and a wealth of football knowledge.
Arth spent a little time in the corporate world before the Blue Streaks coaxed him to return to his Alma Mater. Arth joined the JCU coaching staff in 2010, spending three seasons as an assistant coach. Arth served in a variety of roles – Director of Football Operations, co-offensive coordinator, assistant recruiting coordinator, and quarterbacks coach.
When JCU let former head coach Regis Scafe go in 2012, the choice for a successor was clear – Tom Arth.
The young coach accepted the gig in December 2012 and went to work in building on the longstanding tradition of excellence of JCU football.
Arth spent four seasons roaming the sidelines as the head coach of the Blue Streaks. Over that span, Arth compiled a 40-8 record and led the Blue Streaks to a monumental win over the University of Mount Union in 2016. The Blue Streaks won the Ohio Athletic Conference and reached the NCAA Division III semifinals for the first time since Arth's playing career.
Arth welcomed the Wildcats' coaching staff to the JCU campus often, and adopted many methods utilized by Coach Kyle.
"When Tom became the head coach at JCU, he allowed me to sit in on any meeting I wanted," Restifo said. "He used the same platitudes Coach Kyle does, such as teaching players how to prepare spiritually, mentally, and physically for any challenge. He institued 10 Seconds, like Coach Kyle does after every practice, instructing players to reflect on the day and think about how they can improve."
Arth decided to move up a level in 2016, accepting a job as head coach of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) school.
Arth guided the Mocs to a 3-8 mark in 2017, before improving UTC to a 6-5 record in 2018. Arth's Mocs stood at 6-2 entering the home stretch of the season, before dropping two narrow, one-possession games, and a contest to South Carolina.
On Friday, Arth accepted the Akron job, becoming the Zips' next head coach.
"Tom will have a good challenge at Akron," Coach Kyle said. "In taking the job, and in being in Northeast Ohio Division I school, his hope is to get Northeast Ohio kids to look at Akron as a good university, and a good football program. He'll work to develop the culture. He's a guy who will roll up his sleeves and work. He's already established himself with local high school coaches during his time at JCU."
Having a hometown connection will certainly help Arth to recruit more homegrown talent.
"He'll recruit Cleveland and Northeast Ohio heavily," Restifo said. "The MAC is cyclical, any given year, anyone can be at the top of it. There are great, young coaches at Toledo, Kent State, Bowling Green, and now at Akron. It will be great to see the MAC week in and week out, there will be great competition. Tom will bring those guys up to that.
"More importantly, Tom is a wonderful husband and a great father. Family is important to him. His wife, Lauren, is so special and all of his kids. He always has them at the forefront."
Congratulations, Tom! Good luck at Akron!