Steele's Departure Leaves a Void

Oregon Associate Head Coach Dan Steele was named the head coach of Northern Iowa yesterday. To many inside the Oregon program and fans and viewers like myself it is a great disappointment to lose him. There is no question he was a driving force in the success of the team.

In eight years as a Duck coach he has had 29 all-American performances by his hurdlers, sprinters, both relays, and a couple of pole vaulters. Under his watch his athletes have set school records in every event except the 400 hurdles (junior David Klech could soon do so). In 2005 and 2007 he was named West Regional Assistant Coach of the year for sprints and hurdles. Three years ago Steele started coaching athletes in his greatest personal athletic success, the Decathlon. This year he became the first coach ever to have a winner in both the men's and women's combined events. Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen won Steele's third and fourth NCAA combined event titles of Steele's coaching career. Steele was also named the men's 2009 NCAA indoor coach-of-the-year.

This summer Steele had his first athletes at a major international championship (Eaton and Theisen were Berlin world championship competitors). He did get Eaton to a new personal record, 16-9, in the pole vault this summer after he finished second at the US championships in Eugene and watched Theisen win the Canadian championships. This summer legendary Arkansas jumps coach Dick Booth was let go at Arkansas and Northern Iowa head coach Travis Geopfert replaced him at Arkansas. Steele takes over a school that has won ten straight Missouri Valley Conference men's outdoor track and field titles. He told Ken Goe of the Oregonian that his goal was to be a head coach by the time he was 40 and he turned 40 this year.

At the US championships he was enthusiastic about succeeding in the 2009-2010 year and was taking steps to ensure that success for this next year and beyond. Things must have changed. A couple of years ago men sprint and hurdle coach Steele was promoted to associate head coach "in charge of results" due to his great success. Many know that this was in part due to rumors that he wanted to be a head coach at a program. This summer there is word that he had taken interest in a high profile job but he never applied due to undisclosed reasons. Something changed this summer.

It is clear that family is an important part of his decision. Northern Iowa is in Cedar Falls and he grew up in Moline, Illinois, two and half-hours away. I was advised today that some of his Oregon athletes were first informed Tuesday about his job search and those that I communicated with were disappointed he left with some angry over the situation. Not only did he do a good job of coaching his athletes but also he showed confidence in them and pushed them when they needed it. His charges have given him credit for their athletic and personal growth and show a great deal of respect and appreciation for him and his efforts.

We will never have a clear picture why he left for Northern Iowa but I do know he loved his time here. He will be missed.

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