Gardner plans return as Tabor football coach

Mike Gardner, who earned Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference ?Coach of the Year? honors while leading the Tabor College football team to back-to-back conference titles in 2004 and 2005, is returning to coach the Bluejays.

After serving as the head coach at Malone University in Canton, Ohio, for the past four seasons, Gardner said returning to his native Kansas and to Hillsboro ?felt like the right thing to do.?

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?When I first came to Tabor College, I was at a point in my life when I needed a place like Tabor,? Gardner said. ?Now I feel like it?s time for me to go back and try to help the school and help that team try to be competitive again.?

Gardner succeeds Mike Gottsch, who resigned after completing his third season as head football coach. The Bluejays finished the season 0-10 and were 3-27 during Gottsch?s tenure.

The search for a new coach was led by a search committee comprised of Jaules Glanzer, Tabor president; Rusty Allen, vice president for athletics; and Norman Hope, faculty representative.

More than three dozen applicants applied for the position, according to school officials.

Gardner, who has a bachelor?s degree in physical education from Baker University and a master of arts in teaching from Hastings (Neb.) College, was the top choice from Day 1, officials said.

?Coach Gardner has proven ability as a recruiter, a motivator, a teacher and a mentor,? Allen said. ?He is eager to bring a combination of excellence and ministry together. He brings a passion for seeing young men earn a degree and leave Tabor College as leaders.

?I am convinced Mike Gardner is the right man to be our next head football coach,? he added. ?I believe God has called him to return to Tabor, and I am extremely thankful.?

Gardner, 42, his wife, Julie, and their two sons, Ben (16), and Brooks (7), are scheduled to arrive in Hillsboro Friday and will spend part of the weekend looking for a new house.

Gardner also will meet with his new team Friday and Saturday. His first official day on the job will be Dec. 16.

Gardner said Julie and the boys are eager to return to Hillsboro.

?There have been times since we?ve been up here when she?d look at me and say, ?You know, things would be a lot different if we were back in Kansas,? and I couldn?t argue with her about that,? Gardner said.

?Our boys are really excited about coming back to Hillsboro?especially Ben, who is looking forward to playing football and baseball and being able to graduate with his former buddies there at Hillsboro High School.?

The public is invited to welcome the Gardners Saturday, Dec. 5, in the Tabor College cafeteria at a reception following the men?s basketball game against Bethel College. Light refreshments will be provided.

?Having Coach Gardner on campus this weekend is great timing,? Allen said. ?We have spent the last couple of weeks asking our current players to be patient with us, and assuring them we were working toward hiring the best possible coach as quickly as possible.

?Being able to introduce Mike to the team before the semester ends, we believe, will generate a great deal of enthusiasm and motivate our players to remain loyal to Tabor and the football team.?

Gardner led the 2005 Bluejays to an 11-1 record with an NAIA national playoff victory and a No. 6 ranking in the final NAIA poll. He led his 2004 squad to the NAIA playoffs and finished the season with a 9-2 record and a No. 14 final ranking.

Prior to becoming Tabor?s head coach, Gardner had been defensive coordinator under Tim McCarty from 2001 to 2003. He helped the Bluejays earn their first-ever NAIA national playoff appearance in 2003 and a No. 15 national ranking.

The Tabor defense was ranked 11th in the final NAIA statistics in 2003, and was ranked second in 2002.

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This article came from Tabor Communications.

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