Football Comes Home for Homecoming
| by Carol Best firstname.lastname@example.org
MNU is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its football program this fall. As part of the efforts to highlight the Bright Futures campaign (which includes plans for a $6-million athletic complex) MNU Athletics brought football back on campus for Homecoming. Due to lack of facilities, football and track & field have been moved off campus for “home” competitions to the Olathe District Activity Center for several years. Director of Athletics Todd Garrett (’94) says fans and athletes alike have missed the fervor and atmosphere of true home games.
“ODAC is a beautiful facility and we appreciate being able to use it,” Garrett says. “But everyone wants football to come home permanently. And that’s our mission!”
Since this year marks 40 years of football at MNU, the Homecoming game was a perfect time to move back to campus, even if only for one week. Thanks to the donations of alumni, several sets of athletic stands were trucked in for the fans. The mood was festive as fans and alumni entered the former stadium area. Football alumni gathered for a meet and greet, then watched the game as a group from the south end zone. Former coaches brought greetings to the group, including Gordon DeGraffenreid and Mike Redwine ('87), as well as former Athletic Director Ron Hill. More than 60 football alumni were in attendance.
Mike Birge (’97), who played defensive line at MNU, shared what Pioneer football has meant to him.
“MNU football has come a long way, not only in wins and losses but in how much of a family we are,” Mike says. “Coach D, Coaches Redwine, Cochran, Stugert, Quinn and Willmer all are God-loving men. Teaching young men how to grow and lead is the most important thing and I think MNU has done a great job. The coaches were great mentors and the players are my brothers, I know that anytime I need something they are still only a call away.”
Being back on campus was a reminder to everyone of how important it would be to build a new stadium and athletic complex.
“Having an on-campus facility would be life-changing for students,” Mike says. “It would mean you had a place to identify with as your home-turf. I believe it would drastically change the
feel on campus!”
The plans include a 2,000-seat stadium, with press box, practice space and state-of-the-art fieldhouse. Additionally, track & field would gain practice space on a new competition approved track.
“We are excited for the possibilities that a new athletic complex brings to MNU.” Garrett says. “These improvements will absolutely help us recruit more students and allow our Pioneers to compete with confidence. We really cannot wait for the campus community to join together cheering on the Pioneers back at home.”
Garrett also shared the impact of student athletes on university life.
“With the reintroduction of track and field and cross country, student athletes now comprise nearly 30 percent of our student body. They contribute in the classroom, on the fields, courts and track and are part of a long tradition of excellence,” he said.
For the 16th year in a row, the NAIA has named MNU a Champions of Character ™ Five-Star Institution.
“Without a doubt, Pioneer athletic programs are an important tool the Lord uses to do His work of transformation,” Garrett says. “We hope that many alums will support
the work of the Bright Futures campaign.”