case western reserve university



Hometowner gets his chance at Case

Photo: Head football coach Greg DebeljakGreg Debeljak was born and raised in the Cleveland area and has played and coached football here for the past 23 seasons. He spent the last 15 seasons as an assistant coach – this 2004 campaign will be his first as a head coach.

Case Western Reserve University named Debeljak, 39, its eighth head coach this past off-season. He has spent the previous three seasons as the Spartans associate head coach and offensive coordinator.

“Being from Cleveland and coaching at Case is what you want,” said Debeljak. “The recruiting relationships I have established are all here, and in order to be successful at Case, I think you need area ties.”

Debeljak’s ties began when he graduated from Mentor High School (1983) which is located on the city’s eastside. He threw for 990 yards for the Cardinals his senior year earning him most valuable back, all-conference and all-county honors.

From there Debeljak had a brief stint at the University of Akron (1983-84) where he chased his hoop dreams as a member of the Zip's varsity basketball team, a sport that he actually thought he would end up coaching.

“I was hoping to get a basketball graduate assistant job,” explained Debeljak. “That was the sport I knew better. There is just so much that goes into football. If there was a CA (coaching assistant) opening in basketball, I would have taken it.”

Debeljak transferred to local John Carroll University (1988 graduate) after his freshman year at Akron because he missed playing football. He lettered four times at John Carroll and earned all-conference honors as a quarterback and defensive back.

But he also continued to play basketball. Debeljak helped lead the Blue Streaks to a pair of President's Athletic Conference titles and still holds the school record for assists in a single game (13).

After graduating from John Carroll, Debeljak spent 12 years as a football assistant (1988-2000) at his alma mater before joining Case in 2001.

Under Debeljak’s offensive guidance, the Spartans have posted their first back-to-back-to-back .500 seasons (5-5 in 2001, 6-4 in 2002, 5-5 in 2003) since 1986 and were second in total offense and first in passing offense in the nation in 2002.

Debeljak is glad things worked out the way they did. He said football is a better fit for him because of the passion involved. And he thinks that with passion, the Spartans will win regularly even with an emphasis on academics.

“The most important thing that we as coaches can do is help these kids get to where they want to go,” said Debeljak. “For kids at Case, that’s mainly their academics and their career goals. Four or five years down the road, that’s the important thing.”

With that said, Debeljak thinks pressure in the classroom is no an excuse for performance on the football field. He wants his players to succeed in both areas.

“We are going to do things like tutoring sessions and study tables, things we haven’t offered before, to give them more support,” said Debeljak. “I think that will alleviate some academic pressures and help them be in a better mindset athletically.”.


About Case Western Reserve University

Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work.