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The search for a head football coach for the first ever UTSA football team has been narrowed down to three.

Mel Tjeerdsma, the head coach of the Northwest Missouri State University (NWMSU) Bearcats’ football team and one of the three candidates spoke with The Paisano on his quest for the top position.

“I really didn’t get into this until about three weeks ago,” Tjeerdsma said. “The models that [UTSA] has used as their guide, South Florida and Central Florida are great. Jim Leavitt (Head football coach of the University of South Florida) is a good friend of mine, and I’ve seen what he’s done with that university. In just ten years they are already playing in major bowl games. That is what the plan is for UTSA, and it’s a great one.”

The Bearcats have won two Division II national titles, 10 conference titles, and three-time runner up in the Division II title game under Tjeerdsma.

“Because we’ve had so much success back in Missouri, we are going to have to think long term [at UTSA],” Tjeerdsma said. “I think that’s the sacrifice of the job. There are going to be some growing pains.”

In Tjeerdsma’s first year as head coach at NWMSU, his team went 0-11. Since then, Tjeerdsma has not had a losing season. Eleven of the 15 years Tjeerdsma has been at NWMSU, they have won more than 10 games.

Tjeerdsma has coached in the state of Texas before at Austin College from 1984-1993. He guided Austin College to three Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championships in 1984, 1985 and 1988 and made two trips to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II Playoffs.

In 2006, Tjeerdsma was elected the president of the American Football Coaches Association whose headquarters are located in Waco.

“I’ve been to San Antonio at least once a year ever since I coached back at Austin College. My family and I love San Antonio. I know San Antonio pretty well.”

“There is a lot of history in San Antonio. My wife loves the Riverwalk. Most of all we love the Mexican food,” Tjeerdsma said. “There is this place in Marryville [Missouri] that we eat at about three times a week.”

All of the candidates have come to visit the UTSA campus and have met with representatives from the other 16 sports. They will give their evaluations to Hickey and her staff to help make the final decision for the coaching position.

“I think too many times we shy away from a challenge,” Tjeerdsma said. “I see a lot of potential in the job. San Antonio is a great place to start up football. There is a lot of talent in that city. We are going to have to crawl before you walk and walk before you can run. There are no guarantees.”

The other two candidates, Larry Coker and Paul Randolph, were unable to be reached. The athletics department hopes to make a final decision before spring break.

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