We recently announced plans to highlight the top non-FBS head coaching destinations, starting with the NAIA level. Over the past few weeks we've spent a considerable amount of time fielding a bunch of input from coaches and fans who think their team deserves a spot. Today, we're ready to share number 2 on our NAIA head coaching destination list.
Coming in at #2 on our list is…
Morningside (IA), a perennial small college powerhouse the last decade, enters the 2020 season as the back-to-back defending national champions and will be considered by many to be a favorite again in 2020.
You don't win back-to-back titles in anything without an uncommon commitment from your administration. Morningside certainly has that from the coaches that we spoke to for this piece.
With over 500 wins to their name, Morningside ranks 12th among all NAIA programs in wins, so the tradition is certainly there and the Morningside brand is getting stronger year after year with top finishes and deep NAIA playoff runs as well. Their footprint has stretched well beyond their roots in Iowa (where 40+ of the players on their roster hail from) and include players from successful programs in Texas, Georgia, Florida, California, and some of the top programs in the states immediately surrounding Iowa as well.
Another reason Morningside is deserving of the #2 spot on our list is the leadership that has been provided by head coach Steve Ryan and his staff. Ryan has been the leader of the Mustang program for 19 seasons and has an incredible 184-36 record (a win percentage of about 84%). Coach Ryan has led the program to 16 straight NAIA playoff appearances, and Morningside has appeared in the national semis 7 times in the last 9 seasons and won nine straight league titles. He took over a program that had 15 straight losing seasons back in 2002 and guided the team to a 5-5 record his first season, snapping that dubious record in his first season.
Their potential as a program is as high as any NAIA program in the country. Could they rattle off four, five or six national titles in a row and become the small college version of North Dakota State? Absolutely. The infrastructure is in place and they have as loyal a fan base as any successful small college program to help them get there.
The back-and-forth between Morningside and our top NAIA coaching destination could have come down to a coin flip - it was honestly that close. Check in tomorrow when we reveal the top NAIA head coaching destination.