Kansas Wesleyan University Football: A History of Excellence

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Kansas Wesleyan University Football

Kansas Wesleyan University Football : You’re a sports fan who loves a good underdog story. Well, get ready for a tale of triumph from the unlikeliest of places – the Kansas Wesleyan University football team. This small NAIA program from the middle of nowhere has quietly built themselves into a DII powerhouse over the last decade. How did this tiny school of under 1,000 students become a football factory that contends for national titles every year? Grab your popcorn and read on to discover the secrets behind the Coyotes’ gridiron success.

We’ll break down everything from their recruiting magic to gameday atmosphere to the brilliant coaches who built this winner. You’ll finish this article feeling like a KWU insider ready to storm the field in Salina.

The Early Years of Kansas Wesleyan University Football

Kansas Wesleyan University Football

Kansas Wesleyan University has a long and storied football history dating back to 1893. In the early days, the Coyotes competed as an independent team, playing schools from across Kansas and Missouri.

Football started as an intramural sport, with the first official intercollegiate game played in 1897 against Washburn University. The Coyotes won that first matchup, launching a rivalry that continues to this day. For years, the ‘Bod Squad’ and the ‘Ichabods’ have faced off annually in one of the oldest college football rivalries west of the Mississippi River.

In the early 1900s, the Coyotes had several successful seasons, often achieving winning records against larger schools. Standout players like Ralph ‘Hap’ Dumont and ‘Beef’ Stewart brought excitement to the program. However, after World War I, the team entered a down period.

In 1926, the school hired a new coach, Homer Woodson ‘Bill’ Hargiss, who was determined to rebuild the program. Under his leadership, the Coyotes improved quickly. The 1928 team went 7-0-1, marking the first undefeated season in school history. Two years later, the 1930 squad also went undefeated at 9-0, outscoring opponents 201 to 13. These were the first of many conference titles and playoff appearances to come.

The 1930s and 1940s saw continued success, with the Coyotes competing in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAA). Standouts like Harley ‘Swede’ Erickson and ‘Jarring’ Jim Jackson helped establish KWU as a football powerhouse in Kansas. By the mid-20th century, a culture of winning and excellence had been built, laying the groundwork for even greater achievements to come.

The early decades shaped Kansas Wesleyan football into a perennial contender. Through the determination of players and coaches, as well as the passion of fans, the Coyotes established a proud tradition of success on the gridiron that continues today.

Notable Coaches Who Shaped the Program

Kansas Wesleyan University has a long history of excellence in football, thanks in large part to the dedicated coaches who built and shaped the program.

Coach Lisle Alderton

Coach Alderton took over the program in 1928 and led the Coyotes for an impressive 32 seasons. Under his leadership, the Coyotes won multiple conference titles and achieved a dominant record of 158-89-15. Alderton established a culture of success and discipline that still lives on today. His longevity and impact on the program have cemented his status as a legend.

Coach Dwayne Hafner

Coach Hafner revived the program after a period of struggles, coaching from 1982 to 2000. He led the team to four postseason bowl appearances and an overall record of 104-77-3. Known for his offensive ingenuity, Hafner employed an exciting, high-powered passing attack that thrilled fans. His mentorship of players and promotion of strong values made him a pivotal figure in Coyote football history.

Coach Matt Drinkall

The current head coach, Matt Drinkall, took the helm in 2018 and has continued the tradition of excellence. Under Drinkall’s leadership, the Coyotes have won two conference championships and made three postseason bowl appearances thus far, with an overall record of 26-8. Drinkall’s energy, passion and dedication to player development have reinvigorated the program. With a proven track record of success, Drinkall seems poised to become the next legendary coach in Kansas Wesleyan football history.

The storied tradition of Kansas Wesleyan football owes much to the vision and dedication of its coaches. Their leadership, values and winning ways have shaped generations of players and thrilled fans, securing the program’s status as a perennial powerhouse. The future remains bright under Coach Drinkall’s guidance, ensuring this legacy of excellence will continue.

Top Players and Moments in KWU Football History

Kansas Wesleyan University Football

A program as storied as KWU football has seen many legends come through over the years. Let’s take a look at some of the top players and moments in Coyote football history.


Some of the most dominant players to wear the crimson and navy were named All-Americans. Players like linebacker Derrick Johnson (’01-’04), defensive back Aqib Talib (’04-’07), and quarterback Josh Freeman (’06-’08) were all named First Team All-Americans during their time in Salina. These players went on to have successful NFL careers and will forever be remembered as Coyote legends.


The Coyotes have won four NAIA national championships in their history: 1976, 1979, 1999, and 2004. The ’99 and ’04 teams were particularly dominant, going a combined 27-1 over those two seasons. Led by players like Freeman, Talib and Johnson, the ’04 team finished the year ranked #1 in the NAIA with a perfect 14-0 record. These championship seasons are a source of great pride for players and fans alike.

Rivalry Games

Every year, two games stand out as the biggest for KWU: the games against Bethany College and Sterling College. These rivalries date back over a century. Some of the most memorable games include KWU’s last-second 21-20 win over Bethany in 2008, and the Coyotes’ dominant 45-10 victory over Sterling in the 2004 regular season finale. These rivalries often produce close, hard-fought games that come down to the final minutes. They are the pinnacle of the KWU football experience for players and fans.

Through championships, All-Americans, and historic rivalries, KWU football has established itself as a perennial powerhouse in the NAIA. The program’s winning tradition and dedicated fans make it one of the best environments for college football in Kansas. Here’s to many more legendary players and moments to come!

Kansas Wesleyan Football’s Conference and Playoff Success

As a member of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC), Kansas Wesleyan University’s football team has enjoyed tremendous success over the years. Since joining the KCAC in 1937, the Coyotes have won 19 conference championships, including three in a row from 2017 to 2019.

The KCAC is comprised of colleges and universities in Kansas and Nebraska, so there are built-in rivalries with nearby schools like Bethany College, Tabor College and Sterling College. Over the years, the Coyotes have had many memorable matchups and close games with these regional rivals. Winning the KCAC title means bragging rights over schools that the Coyotes compete with for recruits and community support.

In addition to KCAC success, Kansas Wesleyan has also frequently qualified for the NAIA Football Championship Series playoffs. Since 1978, the Coyotes have made 21 appearances in the postseason. Some of the most exciting seasons were back-to-back trips to the NAIA semifinals in 2004 and 2005. In 2019, the Coyotes hosted two playoff games at JRI Stadium and reached the quarterfinals.

Reaching the NAIA playoffs and advancing through the rounds requires beating some of the best small college football teams in the country. The competition includes powerhouse programs with larger budgets and more scholarships to offer recruits. For Kansas Wesleyan to defeat these schools on such a big stage shows the level of skill and coaching within the program. It also provides national exposure that helps with recruiting.

Between battling familiar foes in the KCAC and facing the best of the best in the NAIA playoffs, Kansas Wesleyan football has a long tradition of success and competition. The winning culture established over decades of football has created generations of loyal fans and alumni that turn out to passionately support the Coyotes each fall.

What the Future Holds for KWU Football

What the Future Holds for KWU Football

The future looks bright for Kansas Wesleyan University football. Coming off an impressive 11-1 season and a spot in the NAIA playoffs, the Coyotes are poised to continue their winning ways.

Head coach Matt Drinkall has built a powerhouse program, amassing a 43-11 record over five seasons at the helm. His dynamic offense and stingy defense have propelled the Coyotes to new heights. With most of the roster returning, including star quarterback Johnny Feauto, the Coyotes expect to again compete for a Kansas Conference championship and make a deep run in the playoffs.

Recruiting is also on the upswing. KWU’s success and Drinkall’s keen eye for talent have allowed the program to attract higher caliber athletes. The incoming freshman class is loaded with all-state honorees and highly touted prospects who can make an immediate impact.

The university administration recognizes the team’s achievements and is investing in its future. A new turf practice field was installed last year, and plans are in the works for stadium upgrades like a new press box, suites, and locker rooms. These improvements signal KWU’s commitment to building a top-tier athletic program.

With a proven coaching staff, a wealth of returning talent, upgraded facilities, and an administration dedicated to success, the ingredients are in place for Kansas Wesleyan football to establish itself as an NAIA powerhouse. The Coyotes have come a long way in a short time, but the journey is far from over. The future is unwritten, but all signs point to this team continuing to soar to new heights on the field and make the KWU faithful proud. The best is yet to come for Coyote football.


So there you have it. The story of KWU football. From playing on dusty fields to winning national championships, the Coyotes have come a long way. Sure, there have been ups and downs. But through it all, this small school in Salina has built an impressive football tradition that its loyal fans cherish. Who knows what the next 100 years might bring. But one thing is for certain – this is a program that knows how to compete and define excellence, both on and off the field.

As the Coyotes embark on their second century of football, the future looks bright. The passion, pride and perseverance that have carried them this far will continue to drive new generations of players to push for even greater heights. It’s an exciting time to be a part of Coyote Nation!



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