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Northwest Missouri's Tjeerdsma interviewing for San Antonio coaching job

There are moments in your life, Northwest Missouri football coach Mel Tjeerdsma says, that you need new challenges and fear of them should never be a road block.

Family, faith, location and a personal philosophy are the reasons why Tjeerdsma is very interested in becoming the first-ever football coach at the University of Texas in San Antonio.

Tjeerdsma, along with former Miami coach Larry Coker and Tulsa associate head coach Paul Randolph are finalists to build Texas-San Antonio’s program from scratch.

“I got involved about two weeks ago through a friend,” Tjeerdsma said. “I knew they were starting football. I love San Antonio. I got enthused about it. I interviewed. They called me back and now I’m going against Larry.”

In his first interview, Tjeerdsma really became intrigued about the possibilities when Texas-San Antonio athletic director Lynn Hickey placed a football helmet on the table.

“She said this is the extent of our football equipment,” Tjeerdsma said. “There is a lot of work, a huge undertaking. But there is a lot of blue sky. They have a great plan.”

The new football coach will have the next two years to begin building the program that will compete in NCAA Division I-AA, a step up from Division II.

Texas-San Antonio, a school of more than 28,000 students, plans to field its first team in 2011 as an independent and then hopes to compete in the Southland Conference in 2012.

“There’s really no football in San Antonio and people there love football,” Tjeerdsma said. “It’s exciting to do something that can capture the city.”

Games will be played in the Alamodome. If everything progresses, Tjeerdsma said, Texas-San Antonio wants to be in Conference USA in five or six years.

“Lynn spent five years working on this plan,” Tjeerdsma said. “One of the things that enthuses me about this job is her passion for this football program.”

Tjeerdsma said Coker and Randolph will interview later this week. Tjeerdsma will fly to San Antonio on Sunday and will interview on Monday and Tuesday.

“They want to make a decision later next week,” Tjeerdsma said.

Tjeerdsma, 62, acknowledges that he has the greatest job in NCAA Division II at Northwest Missouri. If this opportunity was anywhere else he wouldn’t consider leaving Maryville, Mo.

But Tjeerdsma has one married daughter who lives in Texas with three children and another married daughter in Mississippi with three children.

Tjeerdsma and his wife, Carol, visit San Antonio at least once a year.

“We love Texas,” Tjeerdsma said.

Tjeerdsma also loves challenges, and building a program up. The year before he took over Northwest Missouri, the Bearcats went 3-8. In Tjeerdsma’s first season in 1994, Northwest Missouri lost all 11 games.Since then Tjeerdsma has guided Northwest Missouri to Division II titles in 1998 and 1999 and to national runner-up the last four seasons. He’s 157-40 at Northwest Missouri.

With nearly the entire defense returning, Northwest Missouri has the talent to make another run at a national title.

“I talked to our players about it and it’s not an easy thing to do,” Tjeerdsma said. “They were very understanding.”

Tjeerdsma said if he is offered the job at Texas-San Antonio he will have a difficult decision, but he’s fortunate that Northwest Missouri fans will be supportive no matter what happens.

“The people here are so great,” Tjeerdsma said. “They know me and the faith I have and whatever happens was meant to be.”

To reach David Boyce, sports reporter The Star, call 816-234-4745 or send e-mail to dboyce@kcstar.com

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