Today's Paper Obits Latest News Coronavirus Local News Photo Galleries Sports Newsletters Viewpoints Lifestyle Weather Jobs Readers Choice
story.lead_photo.caption SAU’s Bill Keopple, at right watching one of his receivers, announced his retirement as head football coach on Monday. Offensive coordinator Mike McCarty was named the interim head coach. - Photo by SAU Sports Information

After spending 11 seasons on the sideline as head coach of the Southern Arkansas Mulerider Football program, Bill Keopple announced his retirement on Monday, October 5. The end of Keopple’s run in Magnolia concludes a 38-year coaching career which included 31 years at the collegiate level and culminated with the Little Rock, Arkansas, native becoming SAU’s all-time winningest head coach during the 2019 campaign.

“We want to thank Coach Keopple for the time and effort that he gave as head football coach at Southern Arkansas and for the successes that he brought to the Mulerider Football program. We wish him and Marsha the best in his retirement,” remarked Director of Athletics Steve Browning. “We are excited that Coach McCarty has agreed to take on the role of interim head coach and we look forward to working alongside him as we continue to advance our football program.”

Hired on December 12, 2008 as the 19th head coach in program history, Keopple inherited a Mulerider football program that had won just seven games combined over the previous three seasons. In his first three years leading and rebuilding Southern Arkansas, the Muleriders would only manage to match that three-year win total prior to his arrival. However, in 2012, Keopple engineered the program’s best season since 2003 as the Muleriders posted an 8-3 record overall, a third-place finish in the Great American Conference, and the team’s first postseason appearance in nine years after receiving a berth in the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl.

Over the next seven seasons, Southern Arkansas would win no fewer than five games a year, while posting at least seven wins in each season since 2015. Since 2012, the Muleriders finished in the top five of the GAC standings in all but one season and in 2016 Keopple led SAU to its best finish during his tenure with a 9-3 record overall, a second-place finish in the GAC and a postseason appearance in the Agent Barry Live United Bowl.

Of his program record 65 victories (.546; 65-54), 58 came between 2012 and 2019. Since that aforementioned turnaround season of ‘12, Keopple and the Muleriders averaged over seven wins per season, made four postseason bowl game appearances, and knocked off four nationally-ranked opponents which includes a 28-23 road win at #7 Harding in 2018; the highest ranked opponent defeated by the Muleriders in the program’s Division II Era.

Over half of Keopple’s wins since 2012 came at home inside Wilkins Stadium at Rip Powell Field as his Muleriders posted a 32-4 mark in Magnolia which included four unbeaten seasons at home and at one point Division II Football’s longest home winning streak at 17 games which ran from October of 2015 to September of 2019. Overall, Keopple posted a home record of 37-13. Additionally, the Muleriders earned ten wins in regular season trophy games with three victories in the Murphy USA Classic and seven wins over longtime rival Arkansas-Monticello in the annual Battle of the Timberlands.

In terms of individual student-athlete honors, Keopple coached 68 all-conference players, 39 all-academic student-athletes, 23 all-region performers, ten All-America selections and two academic All-America honorees. Three players received superlative honors from the Great American Conference, while two players were named finalists for national honors.

Hired in July of 2020, McCarty brings over 30 years of collegiate coaching experience at numerous stops along the Division I, Division II and junior college levels including 22 seasons as an offensive coordinator.

Prior to coming to Southern Arkansas, McCarty spent the past two seasons at Division II Colorado State-Pueblo where he served as the ThunderWolves’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. During his time in Pueblo, CSUPueblo posted an overall record of 22-4 with an 18-2 mark in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) play, captured the 2018 RMAC Championship and made consecutive trips to the NCAA Division II playoffs. In those two seasons with McCarty leading the offense, the ThunderWolves averaged 33.8 points per game and over 380 yards of total offense.

McCarty’s arrival in Magnolia will not be his first coaching stop in the Natural State as he previously spent time at the University of Central Arkansas (2014-16), where he coached running backs and served as the program’s recruiting coordinator, and at Arkansas State University (2004-07) where he instructed the Red Wolves’ wide receivers. In 2005, ASU won the Sun Belt Conference Championship and competed in the New Orleans Bowl.

In between his first two coaching stints in Arkansas, McCarty served as the offensive coordinator at Holmes College (2011-13) of the highly competitive Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) and coached the quarterbacks at Bryant University (2009-11).

Following his playing career as a wide receiver at the University of Oregon (1983-86) as well as serving as a graduate assistant (1988-90) in Eugene, much of McCarty’s coaching experience came at the NCAA Division I-AA/Football Championship Subdivision level.

From 2001-03, he was the associate head coach and offensive coordinator at Stony Brook and during that time the Seawolves offense lead the Northeast Conference in total offense. Preceding his time at SBU, McCarty served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Nicholls State (1999-01), Illinois State (1996-97), Hofstra (1994-96) and Oregon Tech (1991-92). While at Hofstra, The Pride appeared in the FCS Playoffs in 1995 and boasted the No. 3 offense in the nation with the fifth-best rushing game and the eighthranked passing game nationally.

McCarty also worked as a wide receivers coach at Troy University (1997-99), with the Trojans making the FCS Playoffs in 1998, and at Southeast Missouri State (1992-94) where he also served as the passing game coordinator.

In addition to his lengthy and impressive coaching resume, McCarty has extensive experience on the recruiting trail having blanketed the south (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Texas) and west regions (California, Colorado, Oregon) during his career.

McCarty has spoken at numerous coaching clinics around the nation and is a member of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) where he has served as chairman of the AFCA Coach of the Year committee and on the Assistant Coaches committee. McCarty’s father, Don, enjoyed a highly successful high school coaching career in the state of Oregon which lasted nearly 40 years and earned him induction into the National High School Coaches Hall of Fame.

Sponsor Content

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with the Democrat-Gazette commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. The Democrat-Gazette commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.