USA Football, the sport's national governing body in the United States, has named Steve Specht of Cincinnati St. Xavier High School as head coach of the 2012 U.S. Under-19 National Team.
Team USA will compete in Austin, Texas, on February 1st, 2012, National Signing Day, in the International Bowl, formerly Team USA vs. The World. The International Bowl is an annual competition that unites the 62 nations spanning six continents that are part of the International Federation of American Football (IFAF).
The Specht-led U.S. Under-19 National Team, comprised of high school seniors, will face an IFAF World Team of top players age 19-and-under from outside the United States. Both teams will field a roster of 50 players. Team USA's players and coaches are selected by USA Football.
Specht, 43, is 74-19 (.796) since becoming the head coach at his high school alma mater following the 2003 season. His Bombers have won two Ohio big school championships (2005, 2007), with Specht earning Ohio Division I Coach of the Year honors both times.
Specht's Team USA coaching staff will be determined in the weeks ahead. The IFAF World Team's 13-member coaching staff hails from 10 countries, led by head coach GREG MARSHALL of Canada. Marshall, the head coach of the University of Western Ontario, was the IFAF World Team's head coach this past February in Austin, where Team USA won 21-14.
Familiar with the sport internationally, Specht was the defensive coordinator of the 2009 U.S. Under-19 team that won the gold medal at the first IFAF Under-19 World Championship in Canton, Ohio, allowing three points in four games. Additionally, in conjunction with Brazil's American football federation, a USA Football contingent including Specht lead Brazil's first national football coaching clinic in April 2011 in São Paulo.
"Representing the United States in anything is a tremendous honor," Specht said. "To do so in football – the ultimate team sport – is an honor, an opportunity, a challenge and a responsibility. Being part of USA Football the last three years has let me see firsthand how the international game is growing and improving, both from a player and a coaching standpoint.
"I'm excited to be part of the International Bowl and to help build understanding for American football around the world. Anyone who knows me knows I love to compete, so I look forward to getting our team ready and playing the world's best in Austin."
The International Bowl is recognized as a U.S. National Team competition by the NCAA and is not an all-star game. International Bowl participation does not count toward a high school senior football player's limit of two postseason events.
"Steve Specht personifies everything we seek in Team USA's head coach," said USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck. "He leads a highly successful high school program with class and integrity, and we're confident he will help us assemble a team of young men who represent the talent and values one would expect from national team athletes."
U.S. Under-19 National Team alumni include: IFAF World Team alumni include:
RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech (2009 team)
DE Mehdi Abdesmad, Boston College/Canada (2010 team)
CB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (2010)
DL Aiulua Fanene, Arizona/American Samoa (2010)
LB A.J. Tarpley, Stanford (2010)
DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State/Germany (2010)
RB George Atkinson III, Notre Dame (2011)
DT Jesse Williams, Alabama/Australia (2010)
WR Jaxon Shipley, Texas (2011)
OL Aleksandar Milanovic, Sacramento State/Austria (2011)
USA Football's national team program is supported by corporate partners Marriott, Riddell, Sports Authority, Rawlings, Gatorade, Upper Deck, Shock Doctor and St. Vincent Sports Performance.
USA Football, the sport's national governing body in the United States, hosts more than 80 football training events annually offering education for coaches and game officials, skill development for players and resources for youth football league commissioners. The independent non-profit is the official football development partner of the NFL and its 32 teams, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Mid-American Conference and the Patriot League.
USA Football manages U.S. national teams within the sport for international competition and awards $1 million annually in equipment grants to youth and high school football programs based on merit and need. Endowed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association in 2002 through the NFL Youth Football Fund, USA Football is chaired by former NFL team executive Carl Peterson.