The Michael “Mickey” Heinecken Coaching Chair, Ritter is in his 15th season as head coach of the Middlebury College football program.
His teams have a combined record of 25-7 over the past four seasons with 7-1, 7-1, 6-2 and 5-3 campaigns, a run that includes the NESCAC title in 2013. The Panthers also won the NESCAC title in 2007, and Ritter was named the NESCAC Coach of the Year in both seasons. He earned national acclaim as a finalist for the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Coach of the Year Award in 2007. He now owns a career mark of 75-45 over 15 seasons at Middlebury, which gives him the second-best winning percentage (.625) in the history of the program.
As the head coach of the Panthers, Ritter has mentored 105 All-NESCAC selections and 58 NESCAC Players of the Week, while seeing his players break over 50 school records. During his tenure, 123 players have earned All-NESCAC Academic honors, and 20 more were named Academic All-Region picks. Two players have received Academic All-American status, including Dan Pierce ’16 on two separate occasions. Fourteen Panthers have received the Vermont Chapter of the National Football Foundation’s College Scholar Award, including McCallum Foote. A two-time finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy—Division III’s top honor—Foote also received a coveted NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship. Under Ritter’s guidance, several other players earned All-American awards, with three going on to NFL rookie camps. One former Panther, Stephen Hauschka, played in back-to-back Super Bowls in 2014 and 2015, earning a Super Bowl ring on Feb. 2, 2014, while kicking for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.
Beyond head coaching duties, Ritter serves as the quarterback coach for one of the most prolific passing offenses in the country. From 2009–13, the Middlebury passing attack led all of Division III in pass completions per game, while holding dozens of spots in the top-10 national rankings. Over those five years, two quarterbacks, Foote (2011–13) and Donald McKillop (2009–10) peppered the school and NESCAC record books, appearing first or second all-time for Middlebury 29 times, while holding 12 top-two spots in conference passing annals. Panther quarterbacks have been named NESCAC Offensive Players of the Year in four of the last seven seasons.
Ritter, a Holden, Massachusetts, native, began his coaching career immediately following his graduation from Middlebury in 1982. The freshly minted graduate with an economics degree joined Heinecken’s coaching staff that fall, spending six years as the defensive coordinator. Following those years at Middlebury, Ritter accepted a coaching position at Tufts University as the men’s lacrosse head coach and assistant football coach. During his tenure at Tufts, he worked as both the offensive and defensive coordinator for the Jumbos’ football team.
In the fall of 1996, Ritter returned to Middlebury to serve as an assistant football and assistant men’s lacrosse coach. He was named the head coach of the football program in December 2000 following Mickey Heinecken’s retirement.
Ritter, who continues to work as an assistant coach in the spring for the three-time NCAA Championship men’s lacrosse team, stays active in the local community. He assists in and directs several local community outreach projects including the long Panther tradition of “Picking Up Butch,” and Relay for Life. He remains a member of the town of Middlebury’s school board.