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Brasfield, Tjeerdsma to head DII ‘Coaches Connection’ pilot

By David Pickle

When Division II considers future policy or legislation changes, football and women’s volleyball coaches will discover they have key advocates who can understand and articulate their points of view.

Those sports are piloting a new program called “Coaches Connection” that will use prominent former coaches to create a more effective dialogue between coaches and the Division II governance structure and staff.

The two coaches are both Division II legends: Northwest Missouri State football coach Mel Tjeerdsma, who retired at the conclusion of the 2011 season after winning three national championships, and Kathleen Brasfield, recently retired as athletics director at Angelo State but previously a highly successful long-time volleyball coach for the Rams.

“With Kathleen and Mel, we’ve identified two people who have almost universal respect in their respective coaching communities,” said Division II Vice President Mike Racy. “If this works the way we envision, not only will we have a better means of sharing information with coaches, we’ll have much better feedback from our coaches.”

Racy emphasized that the program is strictly a pilot – something that could be expanded to other sports if successful, or discontinued if not.

Although specific approaches have not been identified yet, Tjeerdsma and Brasfield will use various platforms to communicate with coaches. Email is most obvious, but there is also a commitment for Brasfield and Tjeerdsma to meet face to face with their constituents at coaches conventions, conference meetings and other events where coaches come together. New media tools such as webinars also will be considered.

Regardless, the hope is to create dialogue that’s deep enough to inform but sufficiently concise to honor coaches’ busy schedules, especially during their seasons.

“We have to persuade them that it’s important,” said Tjeerdsma, whose teams claimed Division II national championships in 1998, 1999 and 2009. “Coaches are always busy.”

Brasfield echoed the sentiment.

“Coaches’ priorities during the season have nothing to do with the future of the sport,” she said. “My hope is that we can distill the information so they know what they need to know. Then we can take their observations to improve the ultimate decisions.”

The initiative lives in a gray area of authority, one that could be considered the province of coaches associations. For that reason, the concept was vetted with the American Football Coaches Association and the American Volleyball Coaches Association before being implemented. Both executive directors said they support the effort.

“I am appreciative of the NCAA creating a liaison to Division II,” said the AFCA’s Grant Teaff.  “Mel Tjeerdsma, who is highly thought of here at AFCA and deeply respected in Division II, is the perfect individual to serve in that capacity.” 

AVCA Executive Director Kathy DeBoer said the idea has been well received within her community.

“Our Division II coaches are very excited about this opportunity to have a voice in NCAA matters,” she said. “The NCAA has done a wonderful job of engaging and empowering student-athletes, and the one-vote-per-school structure of Division II gives administrators a way to be heard. Coaches are the other group with lots of skin in the game and giving them a way to be heard will strengthen the decision-making process in Division II. 

“Kathleen Brasfield is uniquely qualified to lead these efforts. Her 647 wins as a coach combined with numerous NCAA leadership positions and eight years of AD experience give her credibility with all parties.“