The top of the KCAC, as far as preseason polls go, looked pretty much the same as it has every season for the last decade or so.
Defending champion Ottawa was picked first in the coaches poll. Friends was picked first in the media poll.
But as coach after coach got up to speak about their team Friday at league’s media day, a distinct difference began to show itself.
Specifically – who are some of these guys?
With four first-year coaches and two second-year coaches in the 10-team league, it’s a fair question.
“It does jump out at you, because we’ve had a lot of consistency for a lot of years with (coaches) not making moves,” Friends coach Monty Lewis said. “But in the last two years, we’ve got six new faces. That’s not discounting any of them, but they are new and I think from the standpoint of the league, that’s exciting.
“The great thing about the KCAC is that even though we want to whip on each other on Saturdays, but there’s still a fellowship. I can’t wait to get started.”
The league’s coaching lines lay very much along those that are new, and those that have been around for awhile. Lewis is the dean of KCAC coaches in his 13th season, with Sterling’s Andy Lambert and Ottawa’s Kent Kessinger each in their 12th seasons. Tabor’s Mike Gardner is in his sixth season, but was also the Bluejays’ coach from 2004 to 2005.
All four have won KCAC titles and led their teams to the NAIA playoffs.
“There’s a lot of unknown, and I think it’s good because sometimes, when you get comfortable with something, you don’t always do your homework like you’re supposed to do,” Kessinger said. “When you don’t know what’s coming, you question it more, you try to do more digging. That’s good for the conference. From what I know, this is a good crop of coaches, which is good for the conference.”
Kansas Wesleyan, picked fifth in the coaches poll and sixth in the media poll, has a second-year coach in Matt Drinkall. Saint Mary’s Jay Osborne is in his second season.
Bethel (Morris Lolar), Southwestern (Brad Griffin) and McPherson (Paul Mierkiewicz), the bottom three teams in both polls, all have first-year coaches, as does Bethany with Paul Hubbard.
Mierkiewcz is McPherson’s fifth coach in six seasons. Lolar is Bethel’s fifth coach in six seasons.
“There’s been kind of a revolving door with this spot, and people know that,” said Mierkiewicz, who spent 12 seasons as the coach at Hastings. “But that’s over. These players can trust in me for the long haul.”
KCAC PRESEASON POLLS
1. Ottawa (8)
2. Tabor (2)
5. Kansas Wesleyan
6. Saint Mary
1. Friends (9)
2. Tabor (6)
5. Saint Mary
6. Kansas Wesleyan