Inside the Headset: Mel Tjeerdsma [PODCAST]

This week on Inside the Headset, we are featuring former Northwest Missouri State Head Coach and College Football Hall of Famer, Mel Tjeerdsma. Coach Tjeerdsma highlights the importance of building relationships, discusses what it takes to turn a struggling program around, and gives insight on his experience working as a collegiate athletic director.

Mel Tjeerdsma is the winningest head coach in both Austin College and Northwest Missouri State history. Boasting an impressive 74.4 winning percentage and three national championships, his 242 career wins are the 10th most all-time by an NCAA Division II coach. In celebration of his career, Tjeerdsma was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2018. Tjeerdsma began his 27-year head coaching career at Austin College in Sherman, Texas, from 1984-93. Winning a school-record 59 games in 10 seasons, he led the ‘Roos to three conference titles (1984, 1985, 1988) and trips to the NAIA Division II playoffs in 1988 and 1990.

In 1994, Tjeerdsma became the head coach at Northwest Missouri State, where he compiled the most wins (183) and highest winning percentage in school history during a 17-year stint. He won back-to-back Division II national championships in 1998 and 1999 – the university’s first national titles in any sport. Tjeerdsma’s Bearcats added a third championship in 2009, capping an unprecedented run of five national championship game appearances that began in 2005. Tjeerdsma retired as Northwest’s head coach following the 2010 season, and ended a legendary career where he won four AFCA National Coach of the Year honors. Coach Tjeerdsma most recently served as the Athletic Director for Northwest Missouri State University from 2013-2018.


  • [1:50] Start of Interview
  • [2:10] Motivation for coaching
  • [3:32] The importance of relationships
  • [4:41] Turning a program around
  • [6:58] Changing the attitude of a team
  • [9:25] Personal experience as an Athletic Director
  • [12:05] Working with the AFCA
  • [14:24] Learning from other coaches
  • [16:05] Value of the AFCA annual convention

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