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Patience, persistence pay off for Reasland

  Darren Miller  

Ray Reasland has survived on patience, persistence, and a strong faith.

His quest for a college head football coaching position took him to three Iowa high schools before he landed on Steve Miller's '65 Cornell staff in 1993. His wish was to succeed Miller, but Miller's coaching timetable was uncertain. Would he retire after his son Matt graduated in 1994? Would he move on after suffering a heart attack in 1998? Would he become just athletics director when that position was divided in 2001?

"Anytime you're in a situation where you don't know exactly what the

  Reasland becomes just the third head football coach at Cornell since 1959, following Jerry Clark (159-85-1 from 1959-86) and Miller (87-55 from 1987-2001).

outcome will be, you need to focus on your job at hand," Reasland said. "You need to be ready, so I tried to utilize my strengths and put forth a good effort in hopes that those standards would be desired when Coach Miller left."

After the Rams finished the 2001 campaign 7-3-their most successful season since joining the Iowa Conference in 1998-Miller resigned to become associate director of development for planned and major gifts at Cornell. Reasland was named head coach.

With Reasland as offensive coordinator, the Rams established school records for most rushing yards in a season (2,949 in 1995), most victories for a graduation class during its college career (32, 1992-95), and total yards averaged per game (469 in 1994).

Reasland has been around education and athletics his entire life. His father was a teacher and coach at Waverly-Shell Rock (Iowa) while Ray attended school through fourth grade. The family moved to Webster City (Iowa), where Ray graduated in 1975 as a decorated four-sport athlete (football, wrestling, track, and baseball). He was named all-state offensive lineman in football.

"I grew up in the shadow of coaching," Reasland said. "My father was a multi-sport person. My mom was at home and gave us a lot of attention."
He was a two-sport standout (football, baseball) at Buena Vista College. The Beaver football team won the now defunct Boothill Bowl in 1975 and advanced to the semifinals of the 1976 NCAA Division III playoffs with a 20-14 overtime victory over Carroll College, coached by Steve Miller. The 1976 Beaver baseball team played in a national tournament when Iowa Conference schools still had dual membership in the NCAA and the NAIA.
After college, Reasland declined offers to continue his baseball career, opting to teach and coach in high school. His first job interview was in Mason City. It was pouring rain and Reasland's Pinto got a flat tire on Highway 3.

"I basically stripped off my suit down to my underwear to change the tire," he said. "A dirty farm dog comes out of the ditch and starts jumping all over me. As I'm getting back in the car, I put my muddy hand right in the middle of my white dress shirt. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry."
He dried off and dressed at a nearby gas station, did the interview, and got the job. During their four years in Mason City, he and his wife, Nancy, whom he met in eighth grade, decided to start their family. Their first son, Nathan, was born with a heart defect. Unable to pump blood through his aorta, Nathan died two days later.

"I would sit and watch Nathan and wonder why anyone would work that hard to be a part of a world he had never seen," Reasland said. "I gained a new appreciation for a human's fight for survival even when they don't know what they're getting into. Nathan took heroic effort to a level I have never seen before."

Nathan's struggle inspired HEART-Heroic Effort And Remember Teamwork-a motto Reasland still uses with his teams.

From Mason City, Reasland went to the University of Toledo for graduate studies, then to Pleasant Valley (Iowa) High School. In 1985, while he was coaching in a state playoff football game and Nancy was seven months pregnant with their third son, Neal, the Reaslands' second son, 3-year-old Aaron, was diagnosed with diabetes.

"We prayed a lot," Reasland said. "We lost Nathan, now we have this with Aaron, and we're expecting another child. We've had our share. It's how people respond to adversity and how they use it to move forward. We made it this far because of faith, our family, and the people who have hung with us and been supportive."

Aaron, 19, is a freshman baseball player at the University of Iowa. Neal, 16, is a sophomore at Mount Vernon High School. Nancy is assistant director of Cornell's Student Health Services.

"Ray has experience building programs and he is very thorough in recruiting," Miller said. "With Ray providing leadership and organization, there is every reason to believe we'll be competitive at the high-end of this league."

Ray Reasland file
Cornell College: head football coach, 2002-; strength training coordinator, 1993-; assistant football coach, head baseball coach, director of the Hilltop Fitness Center, 1993-2001; Iowa Conference baseball coach of the year, 2000.
New Hampton (Iowa) High School: head football coach, 1986-93; three-time state quarterfinalists.
Pleasant Valley (Iowa) High School: assistant varsity football coach and defensive coordinator, assistant wrestling coach, 1984-86; football state champions, 1985.
University of Toledo: football graduate assistant, assistant strength coach, 1983-84; master's degree in kinesiotherapy, 1984.
Mason City (Iowa) High School: sophomore football coach, 1979-1983.
Buena Vista College: bachelor's degree in physical education with minors in recreation and general science, 1979; Athletic Hall of Fame, 1991; eight varsity letters.

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