EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – With Fridays in the fall dedicated to high school football, it’s only right former Ithaca and Lansing Catholic coach Jim Ahern received a big award.

On the first Friday in November, Ahern was honored by the MSU Downtown Coaches Club at Reno’s East in East Lansing and received the 2023 Edward R. Vandervoort Memorial Award, which has been awarded annually by the Club since 1953 to someone who is neither a current MSU athlete nor a current MSU coach; has done much to advance the status of athletic teams representing schools/colleges within his/her surrounding community.

He spent 47 years as a high school football head coach across two states – 30 years at Ithaca, before going down to Florida to coach and then returning to Michigan in 2009 to coach Lansing Catholic.

In 2019, Ahern would lead the Cougars to a Division 6 state championship.

The cool thing about Ahern receiving this award is that he had no idea he would get it. Current Lansing Catholic coach Jim Baker told him Mark Dantonio would be speaking at Reno’s East.

Dantonio never showed up and Ahern was honored to receive the award.

“(Coming to) Lansing Catholic was probably the best thing to ever happen to me,” Ahern said about coming back to Michigan to coach. “It was a really good play for me to be at the time and it was really a family atmosphere.”

Baker said, “I think he became everyone’s grandpa, to be honest with you. He came in and he has such a kind heart. He was going through a lot in his life. He just lost his wife to cancer, and I think he needed us as much as we needed him.”

Ahern still helps the Cougars’ football program, but on Fridays, he goes to Rockford to watch his grandchildren play football.