Shippensburg University is mourning the loss of longtime head football coach Rocky Rees, who passed away Thursday night after a short battle with cancer at the age of 69.
Shippensburg extends its sincerest condolences to his family and friends, and to the countless individuals he mentored and influenced in his many years associated with the university.
Rees is the all-time coaching wins leader in Shippensburg University football history, having triumphed 123 times with the Red Raiders. He coached SU for 21 seasons, from 1990-2010, and was an outstanding ambassador to the university and beloved member of the athletic department during his tenure.
Overall, Rees ranks eighth in PSAC history for the most wins by a coach while at a PSAC member school. He guided the Red Raiders to three NCAA Tournament appearances in his career, earning four PSAC Coach of the Year awards and three Regional Coach of the Year awards.
Rees joined Shippensburg in 1990 and laid a foundation for football success with offensive and defensive innovations. In 1991, his second season, SU went 10-3 and made its second NCAA Division II Football Championship appearance after it averaged just more than five wins during the previous eight seasons.
The 1999 season featured numerous school records for offense as the team finished 8-3. Records were set for total offense (4,951) and passing yards (3,071) as the potent tandem of quarterback Chris Gicking (2,832 passing yards) and receiver Jamie Ware (1,334 receiving yards) helped SU average 38.2 points through the first 10 games of the season.
From 2001-04, the Red Raiders set a then-school record for the highest win total for any four-year span in history with a record of 32-13. The culmination of that success was in 2004, when Rees led Shippensburg to a 10-2 record and a share of the PSAC Western Division championship for the first time since 1988.
The 2004 team was ranked first in the nation in kickoff returns, second in scoring defense, fifth in total defense and ninth in rushing offense. It also set a new school record for rushing yards in a season (3,112) while finishing second in points (392), touchdowns (52) and total offense (4,882). SU had 16 All-PSAC Western Division selections in 2004, including nine of the team’s 11 starters on defense.
In 2009, Rees guided the Red Raiders to the program’s first outright conference championship since 1981 with a victory in the “State Game” over California (Pa.). The Red Raiders scored at least 21 in all 12 games of the season, a feat that had never been achieved in 109 seasons of organized football at Shippensburg University.
Rees was a well-respected member of the American Football Coaches Association, including a term as the organization’s president from 1999 to 2000. He was elected to the AFCA Board of Trustees in 1992 and served as the chairman of the AFCA Meeting Rooms Committee from 1986 to 2002 and Chair of the Public Relations Committee from 2000 to 2006. Additionally, he was a long-standing member of the Ethics Committee.
At Shippensburg, Rees posted a record of 123-110-1 (.528). Overall, his career record as a collegiate head coach is 159-125-2, including five years at Susquehanna University (1985-89). He was a two-time MAC Coach of the Year with the Crusaders and is also a member of the Susquehanna Athletic Hall of Fame and South Central PA Hall of Fame.
His final game with the Red Raiders was a 41-17 road victory at Lock Haven on Nov. 13, 2010.
A native of Morristown, N.J., Rees continued to live in Shippensburg after his retirement. His wife, Patricia, died in 1998 and is annually remembered with the Patricia Rees Scholarship. Rocky is survived by his daughter, Meghan.