Ball dethrones Hanson for winning record

Marvin Holman

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‘Necks head coach Randy Ball had reson to celebrate Saturday as he became the schools all time winningest football coach.-Mark Kennedy/Photo EditorSaturday’s 14-0 victory by the Leatherneck football team over Youngstown State University was great not only in the sense that WIU beat the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, but also in a historical sense.

With the victory, head coach Randy Ball became the winningest coach in WIU history, surpassing legendary coach Ray “Rock” Hanson with his 57th coaching win.

Ball downplayed the record as he was approaching it and he did the same in the press conference after the game.

“Probably the best thing about this is last night, (senior running back) Aaron Stecker mentioned (wanting) to not only win the game, but help me set the record,” Ball said.

“When one of your players mentions the record, it means a lot. The kids seemed to really get into it and that’s something that I’ll remember even longer than the record.”

To understand why Ball is so low-key about the record, one must understand that he took over the job when the man that got him into coaching, former head coach Bruce Craddock, died in 1990, leaving Ball with the head coaching job.

“He’s the one that righted the program. I don’t think that WIU had a record for 10 years before he came here. To me, the fact that I set the record is irrelevant,” Ball said.

“He’s the one that turned this program around to be the kind of program it is now, so he’s the one that everybody should be talking about. I wish there was more mention of him, because Ray “Rock” Hanson did a tremendous job, but Bruce Craddock put this program back in the right frame of mind.”

Ball played for Northeastern Missouri State University (now Truman State University) from 1970-71 as a all-conference guard. It was there he met Craddock.

“He was my line coach and I played for him. I coached in Illinois State (University) but that staff was let go. I was out of coaching for a year and went to Northeast Missouri with Bruce (in 1982),” Ball said.

“We were able to win the conference championship and go to the playoffs. When he came over (to WIU) the next year, I came over with him.”

For his first job, Ball used a little wisdom from Craddock to make his decision.

“I had the ambition to be a head coach and I was looking at a couple of jobs, but Bruce told me to be patient and that things will come,” Ball said.

“I think about that all the time. I feel whenever there are problems, he always said be patient and he was right.”

After taking over for Craddock, Ball led the ‘Necks to a Gateway Conference title and WIU’s first playoff victory, along with earning the respect of his players.

“To me, it meant a lot because I transferred here and he gave me an opportunity to do what I wanted to do,” Stecker said.

“For us to win the game was the easy part. We went out there to get the job done. We knew that we wanted to give it to him, and playing the No. 1 team in the nation, what better game would it be for him to break the record?” Stecker added.

“If I don’t play football after this, I think that it’s going to be something that I’m going to cherish,” senior cornerback Donnie Caidwell said.

“I love to win and I know that coach Ball loves to win. I just hope that we can continue to win so the record can be harder to catch up with.”

If a coach in the future does break the record, one hopes that they remember the coaches before them like Ball did Saturday.

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