Mavs narrow search to 6
By the time the Colorado Mesa University students return to campus for the spring semester, the football program could have a new coach.
Colorado Mesa University announced Wednesday that the search committee has narrowed a pool of more than 60 candidates to six finalists.
Pat Behrns (Nebraska-Omaha), Matt Entz (Northern Iowa), Dan Hammerschmidt (Colorado State), Russ Martin (Nebraska-Kearney), Ed Meierkort (South Dakota) and Steve Ryan (Morningside, Iowa) will be on campus for interviews starting Friday and continuing next week, one man per day.
“What’s great about them is they all bring a lot to the table,” Colorado Mesa Athletic Director Butch Miller said. “There are a couple head coaches that have proved themselves. There are a couple who have done it as coordinators and are itching to be a head coach.
“Looking at them, they all have recruiting ties to Colorado and in our region.”
Miller said the new coach could be hired as soon as Jan. 17, the first day of the second semester.
Interim head coach Shawn Marsh, who applied for the permanent position, has resigned, Miller said, after not receiving a formal interview.
Miles Kochevar, Phil Johnston and Seth Damron will run the program, including recruiting, until a new coach is hired. The new coach will finalize his staff.
The finalists include four coaches with previous head coaching experience; the other two have Division I experience as an assistant.
Behrns won more games in his 17 seasons than anyone in the University of Nebraska-Omaha program’s history (130-68). The UNO Mavericks had 14 winning seasons, including one undefeated season (2007), seven North Central Conference championships and eight NCAA Division II playoff appearances. Prior to UNO, Behrns was a head coach at North Dakota (1980-86) and an offensive coordinator at UNLV (1992-93).
Nebraska-Omaha dropped its football program after the 2010 season when the school moved to Division I status.
Entz has coached the defensive line at Northern Iowa, an NCAA Division I Football Championship Series program, the past two seasons. He was the defensive coordinator at Division II Winona State (Minn.) University for eight seasons.
Hammerschmidt, currently an assistant at Colorado State, played for Sonny Lubick and coached on his staff at CSU. He has been an offensive coordinator for eight seasons, defensive assistant for 11 and recruiting coordinator for four seasons. He was Wyoming’s assistant head coach in 2008-09 and Rice’s wide receivers coach in 2007-08.
Martin is familiar with Colorado Mesa after serving as the University of Nebraska-Kearney offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach the past eight seasons. The Lopers averaged 33 points and 410 yards per game in his eight seasons as the offensive coordinator.
Martin was a head coach at Black Hills State (S.D.) University from 1996-2000, then the offensive coordinator at Southeast Missouri State for four years before joining Kearney’s staff.
During Meierkort’s tenure, South Dakota set or tied more than 100 school records before his contract expired at the end of the 2011 season. He was 48-30 in his eight seasons there, leading the Coyotes from Division II to Division I FCS status.
The Coyotes made the Division II playoffs in 2006 and were ranked as high as eighth that season. Prior to South Dakota, Meierkort turned a losing Division III program into a conference champion and playoff team at Wisconsin-Stout.
Ryan has led Morningside (Iowa) College to eight consecutive NAIA playoff appearances and is 85-30 in his 10 seasons. He coached 19 All-America players and was voted the Great Plains Athletic Conference Coach of the Year three times.