By MATT PIKE
St. Joseph Post
A former Northwest Missouri State head football coach was honored recently during the AFCA Convention in San Antonio, TX.
Mel Tjeerdsma, who led the Bearcats from 1994 to 2010, was awarded the 2022 Amos Alonzo Stagg Award. The award is given to an individual “whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football.”
The award is named in honor of a man who was instrumental in founding the AFCA in the 1920s. Amos Alonzo Stagg is considered one of the great innovators and motivating forces in the early development of the game of football.
The plaque given to each recipient is a replica of the one given to Stagg at the 1939 AFCA Convention in tribute to his 50 years of service to football.
Tjeerdsma was a head coach for 27 years, with a stint at Austin from 1984 to 1993 before coming to Maryville, earning 242 career wins, 183 coming with the Bearcats, which ranks 10th all-time among among Division II head coaches. Tjeerdsma also boasts a 74.4 winning percentage.
Just three seasons after being hired on at Northwest, Tjeerdsma turned the program around, going from 0-11 to 11-2 and leading Northwest to its first playoff appearance since 1984. in 1998, Tjeerdsma would lead Northwest to an undefeated 15-0 season, culminating in their first ever NCAA Division II national title.
Northwest would go on to win a second straight title in 1999 under Tjeerdsma, playing in five more national championship games, winning a third in 2009. Those 183 wins with Northwest would make Tjeerdsma the all-time wins leader for the program. He was also an AFCA Division II Coach of the year four times in his career (1998, 1999, 2008, 2009) and a seven time AFCA Regional Coach of the Year winner.
Before retiring in 2010 from coaching, the Bearcats would name the field at Bearcat Stadium in his honor in 2007. In 2013, after returning to Austin College working in the Institutional Advancement Division, Tjeerdsma returned as Northwest's Athletic Director, a post he held until 2018.
In 2018, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.