Mel Tjeerdsma is one of the good guys I have met in college athletics.
Tjeerdsma retired from coaching Division II Northwest Missouri State last December after 17 years. He is a small-college football coaching legend.
And I was blessed to know the guy when we both were hanging around Northwestern College of Iowa in the 70s. Mel enjoyed teasing my football picks in the local paper when I served as sports editor.
Tjeerdsma had been a successful Iowa high school coach and then became an assistant at Northwestern. Little did I know then, Mel would rock the small college coaching world.
After a stint at Austin (TX) College, Mel moved to Northwest Missouri in 1994. He team was a perfect 0-11. But Mel was building and the Bearcats would later name their field after the coach.
Tjeerdsma guided Northwest to three national titles and four runner-ups. When the Bearcats weren’t in the national title chase and appearing on television (a rare thing in the lower divisions), they were still in the playoffs. His overall Northwest record was 183-43 and 131-21 in conference play.
Reports says that Mel and wife, Carol, have moved to Texas. I cannot see him retiring in the full sense of the word at age 64.
Mel is a faith, family and sport guy. He did his school proud. Yet, I imagine Mel is the same humble guy he was back when I knew him.