MORRISON – After 10 years, five playoff appearances and two state championships as head football coach of the Morrison Mustangs, Cory Bielema has resigned.
According to Morrison athletic director Gregg Dolan, Bielema has been offered the principal position at Southside Elementary School. The Morrison school board met Monday after press time to act on the recommendation.
“I’m going to miss the coaching, but like anything, there’s the aspect of that position that just becomes a grind,” Bielema said. “When the [principal] position opened up within the district, I had a curiosity to check it out and see what they were looking for.
“It kind of evolved into maybe this being the right time for me and my family to move on, and turn the [coaching] reins over to someone else.”
Bielema coached the Mustangs to 2A state championships in 2009 and 2011. The first capped an unbeaten season, the Mustangs’ first since 1963, with a 36-14 win over Maroa-Forsyth in the state championship. Two years later, Morrison went 13-1 with another 2A title, defeating Casey-Westfield 23-14 in the title game.
Taking over as the Mustangs’ head coach when Scott Rickels resigned after the 2007 season, Bielema also served as principal at the high school during the 2009 season before going back to teaching the following school year. The opportunities of being a head coach and an administrator came together in a short time, and he gave it a shot at doing both, but felt he had more coaching in him.
“In my career path, I knew I was going to take a fork in the road to some degree,” Bielema said. “I had aspirations to become a head coach, and aspirations to become an administrator, and they hit at the same time.”
Bielema’s Mustangs finished 8-3 in his first season. He leaves with a career record of 64-42, but has missed the playoffs in each of the past five seasons. Low numbers became an issue during the lean years, and Morrison’s enrollment has decreased by 108 students since Bielema’s first year as head coach.
This year’s Mustangs finished 4-5, their best season since a 6-4 campaign in 2012. They began the year 3-0, beating eventual playoff teams Hall and Kewanee, before a 54-0 loss to Newman began a five-game losing streak that was snapped with a 36-32 win over Bureau Valley to close the season.
“Looking back, I’ve kind of run the gamut of everything a coach can go through,” Bielema said. “The obvious success of the first few years is going to be remembered … even the last few years with injuries, numbers, and talks of conference shakeups, those things were kind of wearing on me with what’s happening to the kids.
“We had some moments during those times that I’m very proud of, with outnumbered teams being able to put on some good shows against good teams; a pretty decent Fulton team in 2013, the game in Orion a couple of years ago that went into overtime – I still have no understanding of how we pulled that one out.”
Bielema, a 1990 graduate of Sterling High School, taught at Rock Falls and Sterling high schools before coming to Morrison. He was an assistant coach on Sterling’s 2005 team that went unbeaten in the regular season.
No timetable has been set on Bielema’s replacement, but Dolan said that the search for the new Mustangs head coach will begin after Monday.
Bielema is confident that the Mustangs will rebound back into success soon.
“I think we’re right there to turn the corner,” Bielema said, “and that makes it much easier to turn it over to someone that’s going to have some weapons to be able to compete every Friday night for the next few years.”
Cory Bielema at Morrison
• Head coach 2008-2017
• State championships in 2009 and 2011
• Playoff teams from 2008 to 2012
• 51-10 record from 2008-12
• 13-32 record since 2013
• Coached program’s 500th win in 2011