(STATS) - There are so many ways to value what makes a coach of the year candidate.
Some coaches guide conference championship seasons and their teams to the playoffs. A few may guide perfect records. Others raise their squads from the bottom tier to the top half of a conference. Some don't just meet, but surpass incredibly high expectations.
And most have an even greater impact with players off the field.
All 15 candidates for STATS FCS Coach of the Year, a list announced Monday, have outstanding stories to tell this season, selected from a fraternity of 125 in the lower half of Division I college football.
As the postseason beckons for a number of the finalists, a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will cast their ballots based on the regular season. The winner will be honored at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation, scheduled for Jan. 8 in Frisco, Texas, on the eve of the FCS championship game.
The STATS FCS Coach of the Year finalists:
Bruce Barnum, Portland State=
Started the season as an interim head coach, but has been elevated to the full-time job while leading the No. 5 Vikings to a six-win improvement. The Big Sky Conference program has posted two wins over FBS opponents (Washington State and North Texas) and a 5-0 record against FCS Top 25 teams. 2015 Records: 9-2 overall, 6-2 Big Sky
Jamey Chadwell, Charleston Southern=
Having only lost to two FBS opponents, the Buccaneers have captured an outright Big South championship and a spot in the FCS playoffs for the first time. Their FCS national ranking - No. 9 - is their highest ever. 2015 Records: 9-2 overall, 6-0 Big South
Rick Chamberlin, Dayton=
Despite losing the Pioneer Football League's 2014 offensive player of the year to injury after four games, the Flyers went on to earn a share of their first title since 2010 and gain an FCS playoff bid for the first time. Chamberlin's team has overcome second-half deficits in seven wins. 2015 Records: 10-1 overall, 7-1 Pioneer League
Broderick Fobbs, Grambling State=
The No. 21 Tigers have yet to lose to a Southwestern Athletic Conference opponent and will represent the West Division in the conference championship game for the first time since 2011. The second-year coach has led the Tigers to back-to-back winning seasons after they won once in each of the two years prior to his arrival. 2015 Records: 8-2 overall, 8-0 SWAC
John Grass, Jacksonville State=
After sweeping their way to an Ohio Valley Conference title for the second straight year, the top-ranked Gamecocks have earned the top seed in the FCS playoffs. Their only loss was in overtime at Auburn, but they have been No. 1 ever since for 11 weeks. 2015 Records: 10-1 overall, 8-0 OVC
Mike Houston, The Citadel=
Picked seventh in the Southern Conference's preseason poll, the No. 18 Bulldogs are conference co-champions and have earned their first FCS playoff appearance since 1992. They beat the University of South Carolina as part of their third winning season in the last 18 years. 2015 Records: 8-3 overall, 6-1 Southern
Dan Hunt, Colgate=
Having long been a part of Patriot League championship teams as a Raiders assistant coach, he's led them to their eighth title and a spot in the FCS playoffs in his second season as head coach. The Raiders swept through the league while overcoming an 0-3 start to the season. 2015 Records: 7-4 overall, 6-0 Patriot League
Ed Lamb, Southern Utah=
The No. 17 Thunderbirds won only three games a year ago and were picked eighth in both Big Sky preseason polls, but they captured an outright title in the nation's largest FCS conference. They compiled a program-record seven-game winning streak while earning an FCS playoff bid for the second time in three years. 2015 records: 8-3, 7-1 Big Sky
Jerry Mack, North Carolina Central=
Mack has become the first coach at North Carolina Central to win 15 games in his first two seasons. Even better, he has led the Eagles to a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title in both seasons. 2015 Records: 8-3 overall, 7-1 MEAC
Ray Priore, Penn=
In Priore's first season as head coach, but his 29th in the program, the Quakers improved by five wins and earned a share of the Ivy League title. In addition to ending Harvard's 22-game winning streak, the Quakers earned a Top 5 win over Villanova. 2015 Records: 7-3 overall, 6-1 Ivy League
Danny Rocco, Richmond=
In capturing a share of the CAA Football title for the second time in the last four seasons, the Spiders earned the conference's automatic bid to the playoffs. The No. 12 Spiders posted a seven-game winning streak earlier this season. 2015 Records: 8-3 overall, 6-2 CAA
Jerry Schmitt, Duquesne=
Having come close to their first FCS playoff appearance before, the Dukes stepped inside from the doorstep of the postseason by winning an outright Northeast Conference championship. They improved from only two conference wins a year ago. 2015 Records: 8-3 overall, 5-1 Northeast
John Stiegelmeier, South Dakota State=
The No. 10 Jackrabbits have earned their fourth straight FCS playoff appearance after graduating their all-time leaders in rushing, passing and receiving yards following last season. Their big campaign has included wins over Kansas, Southern Utah and Illinois State. 2015 Records: 8-3 overall, 5-3 Missouri Valley
Matt Viator, McNeese State=
The Southland Conference champion Cowboys, ranked No. 3, were the only FCS team to finish without a loss in the regular season. Viator has set the school record for wins and become the Southland record holder for conference wins. 2015 Records: 10-0 overall, 9-0 Southland
Chris Villarrial, Saint Francis=
The Red Flash posted their first winning season in 23 years on the FCS level and their best record in the Northeast Conference. They finished second after being picked fifth in the conference's preseason poll. 2015 Records: 6-4 overall (NCAA doesn't recognize win over University of Faith), 4-2 Northeast