Tabor hires Texas coach to lead football program

Less than a month after Mike Gardner resigned as head football coach at Tabor College, the school has hired Robert Rubel to assume those responsibilities.

Rubel comes to Tabor from Abilene (Texas) Christian University, where he has been the offensive assistant, assistant athletic director/compliance, kickers coach and academic coordinator.

“Robert has an excellent football background,” said Don Brubacher, Tabor athletic director. “We like the variety of his background in coaching as well as the fact he has worked as a coordinator in several places and been successful in that.”

Rubel previously coached at Oklahoma Panhandle State University, North Dakota State College of Science, Cisco (Texas) Junior College and Kermit and Henrietta high schools in Texas and Perry High School in Oklahoma.

While at Panhandle State, Rubel became aware of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.

“We played Southwestern College and when we scouted them, I thought it was a neat place and that got me interested in the KCAC,” Rubel said in a phone interview from Abilene. “I knew it was a private-school situation and I knew that was what I wanted to do down the road.”

Keeping tabs on coaching openings via, the 35-year-old coach began his quest for the Tabor vacancy.

“When I saw the position was available, that’s when I started doing my homework,” Rubel said. “The most intriguing thing for me about Tabor was the similarity between it and ACU. I like the Christian aspect and the fact it’s a strong football school-and I like the people.”

Although Rubel has never been involved with an NAIA school in the past, the similarity with NCAA Division II schools will smooth the transition.

“The NAIA is very similar in terms of eligibility and scholarships,” he said. “I feel comfortable coming into this situation.”

Rubel may be less comfortable with the prospect of filling the shoes vacated by Gardner and his predecessor, Tim McCarty.

“It’s hard to come in following those guys because they did a tremendous job,” Rubel said. “But Coach Brubacher runs an excellent athletic program and President (Larry) Nikkel seems like a guy who’s committed to promoting athletics and a positive environment around athletics.

“My biggest concern right now is that I come in and keep it moving in the right direction-and with all the history with Tabor, I want to do things right and maybe even kick that program up a notch if I can,” he added.

“I wouldn’t have taken the job if I wasn’t confident we can win.”


Rubel met with Bluejay players during his campus visit last week and liked what he saw.

“Tabor has a lot of great football players right now, and we’d love to have them all back next fall at Tabor,” he said. “I met with the senior captains and we talked about what type of program I’m going to run. Hopefully, that will keep them all around.”


Rubel said he doesn’t feel his late hire will greatly affect his ability to recruit student-athletes for next fall.

“Coach (John) Kliewer has done an excellent job, so I don’t think our late start will have any negative effects on us,” Rubel said. “He’s done a good enough job to keep the program at the highest level. I’m hoping with my contacts, we’ll find a few players late that will be difference makers and take us even deeper into the playoffs.”

Given Tabor’s recent recruiting successes in California and Texas, Rubel was asked where he’ll focus his efforts.

“We’ll leave no stone unturned,” he said. “We will go out and try to find the absolute best athlete to fit at Tabor College-I don’t care where they come from.”

Selling potential student-athletes on Tabor College won’t be a problem, according to Rubel.

“One of my biggest recruiting sells is going to be the strength of our football program,” he said. “When you’re a football player, that’s the first thing you want to hear.

“Then you go into the unbelievable education that you can get at Tabor and the added benefits of the spirituality aspect of the college. I think it’s a school we can easily sell.”

Even before Rubel arrives on campus-which happens March 6-he’s been busy making contacts with potential players.

“I’ve started calling kids already and I’m on the recruiting trail,” Rubel said. “Even though I’m not there yet, my mind and heart are there right now.”

Rubel said he won’t attempt to persuade current ACU players to change schools and attend Tabor.

“I don’t feel like I want to open that box,” he said. “


Rubel said he’s hopeful most of the former staff at Tabor College will join his program as well.

“I’m going to have two positions I’m going to have to fill, and I want to do that as soon as possible,” he said. “I want to get that done so we can maintain the recruiting trail and get ready for spring ball.

“But I want to find the best coaches I can find and then I’ll fill in the last piece of puzzle myself,” he said. “I’ll probably coordinate one side of the ball, but with plenty of help, depending on who we bring in as an assistant.”

Proposed renovations to Reimer Field are exciting for the school as well as Rubel, but he said the project had no effect on his decision to come.

“I would have taken this job regardless,” he said. “But I do feel it’s a tremendous opportunity. I feel it’s just icing on the cake.”

Mission minded

Respecting the mission of Tabor College is vital in Rubel’s thoughts and behavior, he said.

“The fact that Tabor stresses a Christ-centered education is 95 percent of the reason I applied for the job at Tabor,” Rubel said.

Who Robert Rubel is and how that affects his team is still a question to be answered, but Rubel knows his own personality.

“You’re going to meet an energetic and enthusiastic person, a positive person and a person who’s interested in other people,” he said. “I think my team is going to reflect that and be a bunch of guys who are going to have fun.

“We’re not going to hang our hat on one certain thing, but we’re going to have good, solid student-athletes that people enjoy being around,” he said. “Our players will be very centered around their education and spirituality.”

Coaching experience

Although Tabor will be Rubel’s first stop as a head football coach, he has been a head coach of baseball and golf.

“I’m also an assistant athletic director here, so from an administrative and organizational standpoint, that will help,” he said.

“In my time as an assistant, I’ve learned how a head coach needs to carry himself and that lead by example mentality.

“I’ve learned decision-making and that you need to do what’s best for the program and not necessarily best for one person.”

Rubel and wife Sheila and have two children, an 8-year-old daughter Ashley Noel and a 5-year-old son, Austin Noah.

Rubel knows hard work and determination are necessary for his success at Tabor, but he expects to meet the challenge.

“This job is a tremendous opportunity for me,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to getting there and the guys seem like a great group.

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