The Coach Who Never Yielded


Southern Arkansas University are nicknamed the Muleriders. They received their name after old stories of players and coaches riding on mules to get to the train station to leave for games.

The tough losses are mounting up in the first season of the Chad Morris era at Arkansas. Razorback fans may be putting greasy popcorn bags over their faces in disbelief of what this program has become. As I do not hold the answers to how they can become better, tonight I will shine a light on a small south Arkansas town who’s college football program is on the rise in NCAA Division II Football.
Where is the most impressive college coaching job in the state of Arkansas? Right in Magnolia, AR. The SAU football program was in shambles after six losing seasons in a row. For what ever reason, SAU could not find a head coach and turned to Texarkana (Arkansas High School) head coach, Bill Keopple, who was fresh off two straight Arkansas 6A State Championships.

Bill Keopple interviewing at halftime of a game against the Harding University Bison in 2012. The game was being broadcasted by the CBS Sports Network. This was the first live, nationally televised game in school history.

Yes, Keopple had experience as a position coach at the college ranks but this was the first college gig where he would call the shots.
Early on, Mulerider fans were doubtful he would get the job done with a 7-27 record to show for. Brutal beat downs occurred regularly for this young new coaching staff. By Keopple’s fourth season he put the doubters to rest. Finishing 8-3 with a record setting quarterback, Tyler Sykora.

Tyler Sykora, former Mulerider quarterback 2009-2013.

After three losing seasons, Keopple showed patience as a coach and the wait paid off for him, the players, administration and the fans who wanted to see a competitive team.
Since the breakthrough 2012 season, the Mulerider program started to roll after a 7-27 start. Keopple has led the Muleriders to a 45-19 record since 2012. This season, SAU has started 3-0 with a victory over the 7th ranked team in the country in Harding University.

Barrett Renner, current Mulerider quarterback.

With a very talented senior quarterback in Barrett Renner and a promising defense, the Muleriders look to win their conference since the NAIA Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference days of the early 1990’s.
Razorback fans, it takes time to build or rebuild a program when it is at rock bottom. Just take this South Arkansas college program as an example, lumps may come early on but the end result can be success.

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