Story by McCoy Worthington, Midland Sports Information
FREMONT, Neb. - As No. 8 Midland (Neb.) rolls through the first half of the 2013 season, the second half of last season is undoubtedly humming in the minds of Warrior fans. After winning eight of their last 12 regular season contests to reach the NAIA National Tournament, the relatively unknown Midland squad downed eighth-ranked Eastern Oregon and No.22 York – only to fall to No.1 William Penn in the quarterfinal matchup on a buzzerbeater.
However, for head coach Todd Eisner, last season’s accomplishments stand as even more momentous. With the national quarterfinal appearance, Eisner became the first coach in the history of the NAIA Division II ranks to reach the prestigious “Round of Eight” with three different squads (Viterbo University, Bellevue University, and Midland University).
“I have been very fortunate to have talented student-athletes who were willing to buy into winning philosophies,” said Eisner. “In every trip we’ve made to the national stage, I’ve had hard working athletes and dedicated assistants.”
His first appearance came in the 1998-99 season with Viterbo University. From there Eisner moved on to Bellevue University where he transformed the Bruins into a national presence. In the season prior to his arrival, Bellevue finished a dismal 5-7 in the conference; By the time of his departure, the Bruins were considered regulars at the national tournament and had twice reached the NAIA National Championship –once in the program’s first ever appearance in 2003-04 and in the program’s latest showing in 2008.
However, his most recent trip to the NAIA quarterfinals may be his most noteworthy. For Eisner, Midland’s trip to the NAIA Round of Eight was the product of just two years – a span in which he has helped lift the Warriors to historic new heights. When he arrived at Midland, the Warriors held a longstanding tradition of building character-driven athletes but never finished above .500 in the highly competitive Great Plains Athletic Conference. Yet, in each of his two seasons as head coach, Midland has set a new school record for total wins. Last year’s squad also advanced to the NAIA quarterfinal round and finished the season ranked in the NAIA DII national poll for the first time in the program’s history.
"I’ve been fortunate from day one at Midland to have great support from our administration," said Eisner. "The strides our program has made have a lot to do with President Sasse and his vision for our institution, Midland Athletics and our basketball program."
That vision has included an institution-wide push to maximize opportunities for participation and engagement at Midland. In the last four years, the university has added 11 varsity sports to create the largest athletic department in the state of Nebraska. Moreover, the institution has focused heavily on enhancing extant athletic programs.
“We are committed to installing great leaders who strive for excellence both inside and outside of the playing arena,” said Dave Gillespie, Midland University’s Director of Athletics. “It is important for us to build championships, but we have also focused on bringing in coaches who cultivate outstanding character.”
The philosophy has panned out in the case of Eisner and the men’s basketball team. Under his direction, the men’s basketball squad has broken the institutional record for wins in a season twice. Through two seasons he has accrued 40 wins, which is more victories in a two-year span than any men’s basketball coach in the university’s history. All 11 seniors playing under Coach Eisner have earned their degrees, and his 2012-13 team received the National Association of Basketball Coaches Team Academic Excellence Award.
Midland University is ranked No.16 in the NAIA DII Men’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25. The Warriors are currently 10-1 on the young season. More information on head coach Todd Eisner and the Midland University men’s basketball team can be found at MidlandAthletics.com.