Washburn didn’t want it’s MIAA football Coach of the Year, Craig Schurig, to become a Redhawk, and luckily neither did Southeast Missouri State.
The Redhawks hired Tony Samuel on Dec. 21. Schurig, who interviewed for the job Dec. 9, has been busy around the office this past week doing what he’s done the second he came back from Cape Girardeau, Mo. – recruiting, and with no regrets.
“There is not much difference at all between DI-AA, and DII. I told [the football players] that our program was three, four, five years ahead of where Southeast was in a lot of the facilities and things we were doing as a program. I think our program is right along the lines of DI-AA program,” said Schurig.
Schurig must have been a tough candidate to turn down, as he, his coaches and the players around him, have rejuvenated a program that hadn’t had success since the first George Bush took over the Oval Office. It may even be a tougher choice for young athletes across the nation to not pick Washburn as their new place for success, as the Bods made their first Division II playoff appearance ever, losing to the eventual national title runner-up, Northwest Missouri State.
Washburn has responded accordingly with the recent success of Schurig’s program, including making improvements in facilities, such as the new field turf being laid down in Yager Stadium and the video system purchased last May.
“It just shows our continued commitment to what we’ve been working on. It takes a whole university, it takes everybody to have a successful football program. The field turf, or turf system, is something we talked about when I was hired four years ago. It’s a little bit ahead of schedule as far as what we thought at that time getting it in,” said Schurig.
Schurig said he thinks the new turf will be a big advantage in practice and help the stadium’s appearance be one of the nicest in the country.
Schurig stresses the role of the University in recruiting and even gives coaches Bob Chipman and Ron McHenry some credit to the success of bringing in recruits.
“I think the basketball program helps, it just gives your school more notoriety. I know when we recruit, when we bring them into the arena that is full from a basketball game, that helps our recruiting. I think when the basketball team brings in recruits in the fall, and they see an active home football game, that helps recruiting,” said Schurig.
But what may help most of all with recruiting is the success of the program in the last two years. Becoming Mineral Water Bowl Champions in 2004, MIAA champions in 2005, Washburn might just look like a football school.
“We noticed in this year’s recruiting, we are getting more attention from the top recruits. It’s very competitive to get them, but I would say this year, more than any other year, as far as the kids we’ve brought in and are interested in Washburn University, the talent level is higher than in the past,” said Schurig.
Schurig will announce Feb. 1 how many of those top recruits will join the Bods next fall to complete the national championship chapter, which ended abruptly this year after high expectations.
“I think our kids saw, after losing to Northwestern and how well they did, that how close you are to the national prize of a national championship. But really our conference is one that if you’re the top team in the conference, you can beat anybody. We definitely feel we underachieved in the playoffs. We will learn from that and do a better job next time. I think definitely the loss should be a motivating factor,” said Schurig.