ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ANDREW OTTOSON
Tabor College announced the hiring of Mike Gottsch as its new head football coach last week. He began his duties Monday.
Gottsch has been coaching football since he graduated from Tabor in 1989, and is returning to lead the program he once directed from under center.
Though sidelined by injury for much of his senior season, Gottsch persevered. “I blew my knee out in the fourth game-against Ottawa, I think,” he said. “That was too late for a hardship (red shirt).
“They asked me to stay on and coach as a fifth-year senior. From there I moved on and got my master’s at Chadron State, where I was a graduate assistant.”
While earning a master’s degree in secondary education to go with the health and physical education degree he earned at Tabor, coaching and playing football continued to hold a prominent place in Gottsch’s life.
“Between my years at Chadron, I went overseas and was a quarterback and coordinator for the West London Aces,” Gottsch said.
When his days as a graduate assistant were over, Gottsch found that his talents were in demand, and his passion for coaching football has since taken him around the country.
An Omaha, Neb., native, Gottsch has lived in towns as small as Henderson, Neb., and as big as Thousand Oaks, Calif.
“Right out of Chadron State, I had some college coaching opportunities and I was offered the head job at Henderson High School,” he said. “I was married and I thought it was an excellent opportunity.”
Gottsch went from Henderson to Colby and from Colby to Upper Iowa University. From there, he returned to the area to coach at Hutchinson Community College.
“My wife was happy (about the move to Hutchinson)-she’s a Tabor grad, too, and her buddies were around there,” Gottsch said. After a stint at Southmont High School in Crawfordsville, Ind., he returned to Hillsboro.
“It has been a life-long ambition to coach at the college level, and you can’t beat your alma mater,” he said. “When the job opened up, I really believed I had been groomed for this position.”
Gottsch was originally recruited to join the Bluejays in 1986 from Moorpark Junior College. As the varsity quarterbacking in 1987, Gottsch led the conference in touchdown passes.
He was honored for his efforts on the field and for academic excellence off the field.
Gottsch said he will be working hard to find student-athletes who will contribute to Tabor both on and off the field.
As for his coaching preferences, Gottsch said he is likely to scrap the option offense that went 6-4 last year under Rubel.
“We’ll throw the ball around a little bit and we’ll run the ball effectively,” he said. “So my style is explosive, to look for big plays. Obviously, you take what the defense gives you, but it is critical to be balanced enough to be able to do both.”
Gottsch cited the success of former coaches Tim McCarty and Mike Gardner when he talked about his approach to recruiting:
“You have to use them as a model because of all the success they had,” he said. “Good recruiting is a matter of finding kids who want to excel in the classroom and work hard on the football field.
“They did an exceptional job of bringing in those high-caliber players who are committed to the classroom and committed to winning. Tabor is looking for character people-people who not only talk about Christian lifestyles and values, but live them.”
Recruiting is a high priority every off-season, but the value of bringing a strong recruiting class to Tabor may be higher than usual in 2007.
“My immediate goals are to get busy recruiting and fill our team with quality kids who have character, passion for football and who care about getting a degree from Tabor College,” Gottsch said.
Other priorities include fleshing out a staff of assistant coaches and getting the strength-and-condition program going.
Gottsch has already met his team, and said many of the players, led by the team’s seniors, have already “taken the bull by the horns” during the transition.
“The off-season training program is one of our first agenda items-the players are ready to go,” Gottsch said. “We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but it’s work I can’t wait to tackle.”