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Northwest Bearcats

Mel Tjeerdsma

Mel Tjeerdsma

Head Coach

OfficeLamkin Activity Center 212
Phone(660) 562-1311

Mel Tjeerdsma, a four-time national coach of the year honoree, has completed his 16th season at Northwest Missouri State and his 26th as a collegiate head coach. The winningest general in program history, Tjeerdsma has guided the Bearcats to 11 MIAA championships, three NCAA national championships and seven title game appearances in the last 12 seasons.


Northwest was 0-11 in Tjeerdsma's first season in 1994. The team is 171-30 since.


Four years after his inaugural season with the team, the Bearcats became the first NCAA Division II squad to finish a season 15-0. Northwest won back-to-back national championships in 1998 and 1999. It was the University's first national titles in any sport. Tjeerdsma was named AFCA Coach of the Year following both of his championship seasons.


Northwest has competed in the national championship game for an unprecedented five straight seasons and walked away with its third national title this season following a 30-23 win against Grand Valley State. It completed a 14-1 campaign for Tjeerdsma and his Bearcats. Tjeerdsma received national coach of the year honors from three organizations, including the AFCA, Liberty Mutual and FieldTurf.


Among his peers in Division II, Tjeerdsma is third on the active wins list (230) and with the seventh-best win percentage (.739). His 230 wins are the fourth-most in Division II history.


Tjeerdsma has more postseason victories than any other coach in Division II history. He's led Northwest to the playoffs 12 times in the last 14 seasons and sports a 29-9 postseason record. He's undefeated (7-0) in the semifinal round of the playoffs, 11-1 in opening games and 17-3 at home. Northwest made two first-round exits in its only appearances ¬prior to Tjeerdsma's arrival.


The 2009 Bearcats became the 14th team in program history to go unbeaten in MIAA play. Nine teams under Tjeerdsma have finished 9-0 in league play since 1997.


Following the 2007 season, running back Xavier Omon became the fourth player under Tjeerdsma to be drafted into the NFL. Omon was a sixth-round selection by the Buffalo Bills. Omon joins Chris Greisen (1999), Seth Wand (2003) and Dave Tollefson (2006) as Northwest players drafted after playing for Tjeerdsma. Fifteen Bearcats have either been drafted or have signed NFL contracts during Tjeerdsma's tenure.


Tjeerdsma has been named MIAA Coach of the Year 11 times (1995-2000, 2002, 2006-09). He's been named AFCA Regional Coach of the Year seven times (1996-2000, 2006, 2008).


In addition to his coaching duties, Tjeerdsma served as president of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) in 2006. It was the first time a Northwest coach has led the AFCA and the first time a Division II general has presided since 1999.


In his 16 years at Northwest, Tjeerdsma's squads have produced 41 All-Americans. Included in the tally are 29 first-team All-Americans and 13 players who earned All-America honors in two or more seasons.


Under Tjeerdsma, Northwest has produced 111 All-MIAA student-athletes, including 74 players who earned first-team honors. Seventy-two players have earned all-region honors with 46 being listed on the first team.


Prior to coaching at Northwest, Tjeerdsma guided Austin College to three Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championships (TIAA) and became the program's all-time winningest coach. The Kangaroos were 59-38-4 in 10 seasons under Tjeerdsma and made two trips to the NAIA Division II playoffs. Tjeerdsma earned three TIAA Coach of the Year awards.


Before his time at Austin, Tjeerdsma was the offensive coordinator at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, for eight years. He also served as the head track and field coach at Northwestern. The Red Raiders earned four trips to the NAIA Division II playoffs and won a national championship in 1983 with Tjeerdsma on staff. His offense twice led the nation in total offense and scoring. His track and field teams won three Tri-State Conference titles and five consecutive NAIA District 15 Indoor Championships.


Prior to his collegiate coaching career, Tjeerdsma served as head football coach at Denison (Iowa) High School, where he guided his team to a 9-0 record and a 1975 state playoff berth.


He earned Northwest Iowa Coach of the Year honors in 1972 after winning a state championship at Sioux Center High School. He was the Northwest Iowa Track and Field Coach of the Year in 1973, 1974 and 1975.


Tjeerdsma earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from Southern (S.D.) State in 1967. He earned his master's degree from Northwest in 1977.


Mel and his wife, Carol, live just outside of Maryville and have three married daughters and seven grandchildren.