Martin takes football job at Mesa

football coach

Colorado Mesa University has hired one of the best offensive football coaches in the RMAC to lead its program.

University of Nebraska-Kearney offensive coordinator Russ Martin, 56, will be introduced as CMU’s new head football coach Tuesday, the first day of the spring semester.

“We offered him the job (Saturday) night and he accepted,” CMU Athletic Director Butch Miller told The Daily Sentinel on Sunday afternoon. “He’ll be introduced along with his family and an assistant coach.”

Chadron State (Neb.) College defensive coordinator Todd Auer, Miller confirmed, will join the CMU staff. Auer will likely serve in the same capacity, but it’s not official.

Auer, 46, has coached at Chadron State for 22 years, the past 17 as defensive coordinator.

Chadron State is traditionally among the RMAC leaders in several defensive categories. The Eagles were seventh in the nation against the run in 2006 and among the top 20 in total defense and scoring.

Martin coached the top offense in the RMAC and one of the best in the nation in 2011.

Nebraska-Kearney was second in Division II in total offense (519 yards per game), fourth in rushing (281 ypg) and 10th in scoring (39.5 ppg). The Lopers averaged 33 points and 410 yards per game in his eight seasons as the offensive coordinator.

“His offense was unbelievable,” Miller said. “It ranked in the top five in the country, not just the RMAC. What separated him from the rest is he is one of the best recruiters around. Everyone has something great to say about Coach Martin.”

Martin is a native of Scottsbluff, Neb., and played at Chadron State before beginning his coaching career as a defensive assistant at Baylor. He coached at Kansas Wesleyan, Kearney State College and Bethany College before getting his first head-coaching job at Black Hills State (S.D.), which will replace Kearney in the RMAC next season. Nebraska-Kearney is moving to the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association next fall.

Martin led Black Hills to the top 10 in the nation in several offensive categories during his four seasons there (1996-1999). He was the offensive coordinator at Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) Southeast Missouri State for four years (2000-2004) before returning to Kearney.

“We had some unbelievable candidates,” Miller said. “I can’t believe the quality and how impressive they were. This was by far the best quality of candidates I’ve seen (for a coaching position).”

The other candidates were former Nebraska-Omaha coach Pat Behrns, former Colorado State assistant Dan Hammerschmidt, former South Dakota head coach Ed Meierkort, Morningside (Iowa) head coach Steve Ryan and Northern Iowa defensive line coach Matt Entz.

Asked if hiring a coach familiar with the RMAC was important, Miller said no.

“We were trying to hire the best person and best fit,” Miller said. “We wanted a great recruiter. Russ is one of the best in the area. He knows the area. His quarterback was from Colorado (Jake Spitzlberger, who played at Bear Creek). He’s been a head coach and chased the Division I-AA dream for a while and decided Division II was best for him.”

Martin will be the 18th head coach in the school’s history. He replaces Joe Ramunno, who led the Mavericks for 14 seasons.

Ramunno was the second-longest tenured coach in school history, compiling the most wins of any coach (80).


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