Olivet Nazarene Moves Mike Conway into Head Coaching Role

Some of you are probably reading this knowing nothing about the history of ONU football saying, “Who cares? They were 7-4 last year.”

Well, you probably should. Conway came back to ONU to be the Athletic Director after bouncing around the profession the last 20 years after leaving ONU the first time. It’s tough to argue that his previous stint as head coach took ONU football to heights they’d never been nor seen since. In 1998, he had the Tigers playing for an NAIA football national championship. After that, he had a lot of success at North Park University and played a role as an assistant at several universities.

This is a big deal because it’s not often a school can find a high quality replacement when they lose their head coach going into the summer. ONU has done that and seemingly should be able to make the transition to fall with limited interuption.

Full release below. . .

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William Woods University Adds Football

William Woods University is adding football! Given the recent “retraction” of a few teams in the NAIA this is fantastic news. No official word yet on which conference WWU will participate in but the money is on either the Heart or the MSFA. There aren’t many other conferences that would make sense at this point. WWU is growing which is evident by the words of their president and recent Athletic Director hire, Steve Wilson. I know Steve but haven’t talked with him for a while so I was curious why the Salina, KS native left his hometown to take this position at WWU. After watching for the last couple of months, it’s pretty easy to see WWU is growing and wanting to take an even bigger piece of the NAIA pie. Full release below. . .

Fulton, MO – For the first time in its 153-year history, William Woods University (WWU) will be represented on the gridiron beginning in 2024.

President Dr. Jeremy Moreland joined WWU Athletic Director Steve Wilson and University supporters today in announcing the launching of a pair of new sports offerings, both set to begin competition during the 2024-25 academic year. The Owls will field their inaugural season of men’s intercollegiate football in the autumn of 2024 followed by women’s flag football for the 2025 season.

National searches for both head coaches are underway, and recruitment for these two new sports will begin immediately. Prospective student-athletes are encouraged to complete a sports questionnaire on the WWU Owls athletic website (https://wwuowls.com) or complete the application on the William Woods University website (https://www.williamwoods.edu) to begin the admissions process.

“The addition of football at William Woods is a groundbreaking investment in the future of our University, one that typifies the remarkable growth and vitality of our institution,” said President Moreland. “Across the board, we have been growing as a University – in enrollment, academics and athletics – and adding the biggest sport in collegiate athletics is the latest, most prominent demonstration of that exciting trend. We cannot wait to welcome all Owls ‘home’ in the Fall of 2024 for our first-ever traditional autumn homecoming centered around a home William Woods football game!”

The Owls will play both sports on campus at the current home for the William Woods men’s and women’s soccer teams, which will be surfaced artificially in Spring 2024. William Woods is currently accepting bids from turf vendors.

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NAIA Football Postseason Expanding to 20 Teams

Sources have confirmed to NAIAFootball.net the NAIA Council of Presidents recently approved a change to the NAIA Championship Series, expanding the postseason field from 16 teams to 20 teams. The change was recommended by the National Administrative Council (NAC) in consultation with the Conference Commissioners Association (CCA). A task force of the NAC reviewed and proposed the change to the COP.

As of now it is projected that teams seeded from #13 to #20 will play the first week of the NAIA Championship Series with teams seeded #1 through #12 drawing a bye. The NAIA Championship Series would still be played out over the same timeline, eliminating the previous bye week between the semifinal week and championship game. The move would change the championship game from being played on its traditional third Saturday in December to the following Monday.

The dates for the 2023 championship would be as follows:

Nov 18: Opening Round, Four Games for #13 through #20

Nov 25: Second Round, Eight Games for #1 through #12 and winners of the opening round.

Dec. 2: Quarterfinal Round

Dec 9: Semifinal Round

Dec 18: Championship Game in Durham, N.C.

This would be the first change to the NAIA Championship Series structure since 1996 when the NAIA moved from two football playing divisions to one which began in 1997.

Iowa Wesleyan to Close, NAIA Loses Football Program.

Iowa Wesleyan announced today they would close at the end of the academic year. A sad day for NAIA football and a program that started the college football coaching career of the late Mike Leach.

Iowa Wesleyan University’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted Tuesday to close the university at the end of this academic year. According to a media release from the university, the decision was because of financial challenges like increased operating costs from inflationary pressures, changing enrollment trends, a significant drop in philanthropic giving, and the rejection of a proposal for federal COVID funding by Governor Reynolds.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce the Board of Trustees has made the heartbreaking decision to close our beloved Iowa Wesleyan after 181 years as an educational pillar in this community,” said Christine Plunkett, president of Iowa Wesleyan University. “Our focus is now on assuring our over 850 students have a smooth transition to another educational opportunity.”
Iowa Wesleyan has worked with William Penn University, Upper Iowa University, University of Dubuque, and Culver-Stockton College to have teach-out agreements for students to complete their degrees, according to the release. The plans ensure students can complete programs on time and for comparable costs. More teach-out agreements may be added.


Trinity International Football Program Comes to an End.

As first reported by FootballScoop.com, the Trinity International University football program has come to an end. The school has decided to move to online classes and move away from traditional classes. TIU becomes the second NAIA program this season to drop from last year’s list of football playing schools.

Unless I’m stupid, and the probability is high, TIU never came out and said their athletic programs are shutting down at the end of this year. The closest I or the guys at the scoop have found is this blurb from the student FAQ regarding the changes at the school.

I’m a student on an athletic scholarship at Trinity. If I decide to stay on at the school through TIU Online, will my scholarship continue?

If you are a student-athlete who decides to stay enrolled online at Trinity, the Financial Aid Office will work with you to maintain similar out-of-pocket expenses for tuition and fees as you previously had as a student-athlete living on campus. The Financial Aid team will have to work with student-athletes on a case-by-case basis, but you will not have to pay more out-of-pocket to finish out your degree online.


It seems like a rather odd way to inform the public that you are no longer going to have a football program. The other issue I have is this is not a decision that happened overnight. It’s not like TIU woke up a week ago and said, “Yep, we’re going online with our classes.

So it seems rather disingenuous to hire Mel Mills as your football coach on January 13th. Again, this switch to online didn’t happen overnight and it also didn’t happen in the last month either. Hopefully Coach Mills and all of the student athletes land on their feet soon.

I hate to see a football program leave the NAIA. People forget this program started in 1989 with Lezlie Frazier as their head coach. YES. . .that Lezlie Frazier. After Frazier, Andy Lambert took over the program and kept TIU relevant in a competitive Mid States Football Association. Derek DeWitt took over the program to go 8-3 in 2004 to make the NAIA Championship Series for the second time in school history. That proved to be the last time the Trojans were above .500.

Chim Okorafor of Benedictine College Taken in USFL Draft.

Chim Okorafor, an offensive tackle from Benedictine, was taken 64th in the 2023 USFL College Draft. He was the lone NAIA football player selected. Okorafor was selected by the Michigan Panthers whose head coach is Mike Nolan. The Panthers were 2-8 in the USFL last season.

Okorafor was a key part of an offensive line that allowed 12 sacks over 13 games. Offensively, the Ravens finished with 5,347 total yards on offense with 2,018 yards rushing and 3,329 yards passing. The Ravens ranked fifth in the NAIA in scoring, ninth in points per game, and fourth in total offense.

He was also named a Heart South All Conference team member.


The NAIA Football Connection to the 2023 Superbowl

Joe Pannunzio – QB – University of Souther Colorado (1981 NAIA Football)

Every year I look for the connection between NAIA football and the Superbowl. Sometimes it’s as easy as finding a player on roster. Other year’s it’s a lot of “this guy knew this guy and was coached by this guy whose brother had breakfast with this guy.”

This year was in between. There were no players on roster that played football at the NAIA level. But two coaches got their start in the profession on the NAIA sideline.

Joe Pannunzio, Assistant Special Teams Coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, is a graduate of the University of Southern Colorado (CSU-Pueblo). He was a standout quarterback in the NAIA, leading his team to a No. 9 ranking in NAIA Division I while earning honorable mention all-conference accolades in 1980. He amassed 2,981 yards of total offense, scoring 17 rushing touchdowns (four in one game) and passed for 2,703 yards and 22 touchdown. He was named team captain and team MVP his senior year. Pannunzio then began his coaching career as the wide receivers coach at his alma mater in 1981. From 1987-90, Pannunzio was the offensive coordinator at Mesa (CO) College. He additionally coached the school’s quarterbacks and wide receivers from 1982-84. During his seven years at Mesa, the program twice appeared in the NAIA National Championship game and once led the nation in total offense and scoring.

For the Chiefs, Ken Flajole is the connection. The outside linebackers coach, is a 1976 graduate of Pacific Lutheran where he played football and started his coaching career under legendary NAIA/DIII football coach Frosty Westering. He continued on the NAIA staff in 1977 and 1978.

NAIA Football Could Possibly Move to 20 Team Postseason

The first major change to the NAIA football postseason since 1996 could be coming soon.

A task force in the NAIA is considering a move from 16 postseason qualifiers to 20 as early as 2025. The National Administrative Council (NAC) will mull over the issue in advance of the 2023 NAIA National Convention in New Orleans, La. in April.

If approved, the move would allow each qualified conference to have one automatic qualifier. There are currently 13 conferences which participate in NAIA football. To be a qualified conference, there must be six teams in the league. Proposals like this have been brought forth in the past to move to a 24 team postseason but had been shot down based on the shear numbers. The delay until 2025 would be to allow for conferences with advanced schedules to make appropriate changes.

The move to 20 teams would mean 20% of NAIA football teams would qualify for the postseason, a threshold typically used by other major sports in the association. There are currently 99 teams playing in the NAIA division. Men’s Basketball has 233 total teams with 64 qualifying for postseason (27%). Volleyball has 224 total teams with 48 qualifying for the postseason (21%).

The proposal could eliminate the one continuous sticking point every NAIA football postseason where “conference champions rated in the top 20” where seemingly ever year someone is left out or has to fight to make the Top 20. Although, there will be more discussion to determine that portion of the proposal.

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The Passing of NAIA Coaching Legend Bob Young

Bob Young was the head coach of the University of Sioux Falls when they won their first NAIA national title in 1996.

Bob Young, the NAIA Hall of Famer and catalyst behind the success of the University of Sioux Falls football program, passed away today. He was 83.

My first experience with Coach Young was when I started NAIAFOOTBALL.NET in 2002. After I introduced myself at GPAC Media Day and that I was starting to cover the NAIA as a “national” media outlet, Bob couldn’t have been nicer. He remembered I played at Dana College and even knew I was a linebacker. That was significant to me because I wasn’t very good and would hardly leave an impression on any opposing coach watching film. He spoke to me for 20 minutes about NAIA football and gave me great insight about the division from a national perspective. From day one, Bob was one of the kindest coaches I had ever been around.

Stories of his kindness came from all over the county. Other coaches, former players etc. But my favorite came from my old head coach at Dana College, Jim Krueger. Krueger was an assistant with Dana College at the time.

It was 1988 and both Dana College and the University of Sioux Falls (then Sioux Falls College) were both underfunded in their football departments. The Vikings and Cougars faced off in the regular season in Vermillion, SD at the Dakota Dome with USF winning 26-7. Dana had loaded their players onto a bus to head home and some of the coaches followed in other vehicles to take equipment back to Blair, Neb. On the way out of town, the equipment bag of footballs fell out of the back of one of the trucks driven by a Dana coach. The coach didn’t realize this happened.

Bob Young saw it from whatever vehicle he was in on his way back to Sioux Falls. They pulled over and picked up the footballs. The next part of the story is murky as I am not sure if Coach Young instructed a coach to chase down the Dana truck or if his own vehicle made the delivery. But needless to say, a representative of the Cougar football team grabbed the footballs and caught up with the Dana coaches to give them their bag before they got too far down the road.

Leo McKillip, Dana’s head coach at the time, called Coach Young the next day to thank him. Bob explained his football team didn’t have much of a budget at the time and if they would’ve lost a bag of footballs they likely would have been told they couldn’t buy any more that season. Knowing that Dana was in a similar situation with their football budget, Coach Young couldn’t stomach the thought of the Dana coaches having to beg their administrations to buy more footballs that season.

Young retired after the 2004 season. In 22 seasons as the USF coach, Young posted a 172-69-3 record with 13 conference championships.

The Other Division of Football Podcast: An Intro to NAIAFOOTBALL.NET