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ATHLETIC STAFF BIOS

Jerry Smith Jerry Smith

Athletic Director

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been nine years since Jerry Smith was tabbed to be the athletic director at AWC-until you realize what an incredibly successful nine-year run Matador Athletics has enjoyed under his direction. Smith is easily the most tenured member of the AWC Athletic staff, having spent over 40 years in community college athletics as a coach and administrator.  A native of Red Oak, Oklahoma, Smith stayed home to play basketball and earn his Associate's degree at Eastern Oklahoma State College before earning both his Bachelor of Science degree and Master's in Education degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Smith then returned to Talihina to begin his coaching career in the high school ranks for two years. Smith then headed to Durant High School in Durant, Oklahoma, for four seasons as the head boys' varsity basketball coach before becoming the head baseball coach and assistant basketball coach at Murray State College in Tishomingo, Oklahoma for one season. From there, Smith spent the next three decades of his life in several different capacities at EOSC. He was the Mountaineers' men's head basketball coach for nine seasons over two different coaching stints. During that time, Smith's teams won two conference championships and were Region II Tournament runners-up three times. Smith was not only head basketball coach but also longtime athletic director, Alumni Association Director, Vice President of Student Services and the Director of Development during his three-decade tenure at EOSC. Smith was also one of the top officials in the area during that time, officiating high school and college football games, and was even the coordinator of officials for the Oklahoma Secondary School Activity Association in the Southeast part of Oklahoma. Jerry is also well-respected among NJCAA officials, having served as the NJCAA Division II National Baseball Committee Chairman. Since arriving at AWC, Smith has helped increase the awareness of the Matador Athletic Association several times over throughout the Yuma community. Smith also begins his second year as the president of the Western States Football League after spending the previous two years as the president of the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference. He also begins his 4th year as the Region I's Women's Director (after 4 years as an assistant). Smith and his wife of 32 years, Mary, now happily make their home in Yuma, and have two children, Jimmy and Crystal, as well as three grandsons: Carter, Chase and Kyzer.

Derek Diesner 

Sports Information Director/Matador Athletic Association Coordinator

Diesner begins his second year as SID & MAA Coordinator, as well as behind the microphone as the 'Voice of the Matadors'.  You can catch Derek on the school's TV, internet audio, video stream and on 560 KBLU-AM for Matador and Lady Matador game broadcasts. Diesner is responsible for sending out press releases; coordinating press conferences and interviews; generating stories about Matador student-athletes, coaches and programs; and coordinating fundraising efforts for the athletic department and the Matador Athletic Association (the main organization that raises money for scholarships for current and future Matador student-athletes). During football season, Matador fans can look forward to hearing the sights and sounds of each game being described by Diesner and his color analyst Patrick Cunningham, Head Coach of the AWC Women’s Basketball team. Diesner is also the host of ‘The Bullring', AWC’s TV coaches show on cable. Derek came to the Matadors after spending one season with the minor league Charleston RiverDogs, a Class-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, where he served as the broadcasting and media relations assistant. Diesner brings a wide range of experience from both the sports and media world as he has spent time with radio stations in Wisconsin, Arkansas, Michigan, and Kansas and two more minor league baseball franchises in Iowa and Illinois. Diesner currently resides in Yuma and is looking forward to enjoying the winters away from the snow.

Tom Minnick addresses team vs. Australian National Team VERTICAL.jpg Tom Minnick

Football - Head Coach

Minnick has amassed in his six seasons as a Matador:  first coach to lead the Matadors to fife straight bowl appearances (2009 Mississippi Bowl, 2010 C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl, 2011 & 2012& 2013 El Toro Bowl); first coach to lead the Matadors to back-to-back conference titles; first coach to lead the Matadors to a WSFL Championship; led them to the #1 national ranking at different times during two consecutive seasons (first time since 1972); coach an AWC football player to the NJCAA’s Offensive Player of the Year Award to the program for the first time ever (Reggie Bullock won the award in 2010); and feature the league and/or region’s Player of the Year four times in the last three years (Bullock (2010) & Damien Williams (2011) won the WSFL/ACCAC Offensive POY; Chris Young won the WSFL/ACCAC Defensive POY in 2011; Tanner McEvoy won the ACCAC Offensive POY in 2012); win the WSFL Coach of the Year Award himself in 2011; and lead the Matadors to the NJCAA’s Championship Game in 2011.  Since 2009, Minnick’s Matadors have never been out of the national championship conversation during the majority of the season.  For Matador fans, Minnick’s arrival in 2008 began the resurrection of the program, but for Minnick himself, it was just a continuation of the greatness he’d achieved during a long coaching career in the Midwest.  Minnick came to Yuma from Joliet Junior College just outside of Chicago, Illinois, where he restored that program to national prominence in his two years as head coach with 17 overall wins (including a 10-win season in 2007), back-to-back Midwest Football Conference East Division titles and two appearances in the Graphic Edge Printing Bowl (and winning it in ‘07); and a #10 ranking in the final ‘07 NJCAA Football Poll-their highest national ranking in 5 years.  Minnick’s two head coaching years at Joliet succeeded an extremely successful career as a longtime assistant to his mentor, NJCAA Hall of Fame Coach Bob MacDougall.  Minnick was MacDougall’s starting quarterback at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois in 1986, his assistant at DuPage from 1990 until 1996 (helping lead them to bowl appearances all seven years and four bowl wins), and finally his assistant at Joliet from 2000 until MacDougall’s retirement in ’06, where they won 2 national championships (’01 (as NJCAA Non-Scholarship Champs) & ’02 (overall champs), put together a 21-game winning streak over 2 years, and won two bowl games.  Minnick has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business at the University of Missouri-Rolla.  Tom and his wife, AWC Spirit Team Coach Tiffany Minnick, celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary this past year, and have two daughters, 16-year-old Payton and 11-year-old Morgan.

Kenny Dale in action vertical 2.jpg Kenny Dale

Soccer - Head Coach

Kenny Dale’s teams have set new records for the program for consecutive playoff appearances (five straight years and counting), consecutive years hosting playoff matches (four straight), and conference and overall victories in a single season (16 & 19, respectively, both set in 2012).  That magic moment of grabbing the program’s first title finally arrived in 2010, when 23 years of frustration came to an end when they clinched their first-ever ACCAC Regular Season Title, then defeated Pima to hoist the 2010 Region I Championship plaque.  In 2013, the new history of AWC Women’s Soccer began with that same familiar name of Kenny Dale on top of the coaching roster as he assumes that head coaching role for both men and women.  Dale has worked with college-level soccer athletes every season since 1988, and is now in his third decade of college head coaching experience.  Dale earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education and a Master of Arts in History from the University of Arizona. He also holds a USSF ‘A’ license, NSCAA Premier Diplomas from Brazil and Germany and completed the NSCAA Master Coach Program in 2010.

Jason Smith in huddle at Region I Finals.jpg Jason Smith

Volleyball - Head Coach

Smith’s dedication to what his student-athletes accomplish on the court is matched by his devotion to what their academic outcomes are, since all six of his Matador Volleyball squads have been named NJCAA All-Academic Teams, earning the honor by having a cumulative 3.0 grade point average or higher. The 2013 season didn’t disappoint for Jason Smith as he saw his squad win both on and off the court. His team won the ACCAC/Region 1 regular season and postseason titles, they were District C Champions and earned a berth into the NJCAA National Tournament and boasted the third highest GPA in the nation. Smith was even honored as the District C Head Coach of the Year in 2013. In his six years total at AWC, Smith sports an overall record of 116-59. Around his two eras at AWC, Smith has been an integral part of Mountain West Conference volleyball at two different schools.  In 2008 & 2009, Smith was the lead assistant for the volleyball team at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, helping lead the Lady Rebs to a 16-win season his first year.  Before coming to AWC the first time, Smith made his four-year college coaching debut at the University of Utah as their volleyball team’s assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for three seasons.  Smith came to Utah from NCAA Division II Ferris State, where as an assistant, he helped lead them to a pair of 20-win seasons and an NCAA Division II Tournament bid.  In the past, Smith was also an assistant at Iowa Western CC when they finished 10th in the NJCAA Tournament.  Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in business and economics while competing on the Volleyball team at Graceland College.  Smith and his longtime love, AWC Assistant Volleyball Coach Jennifer Smith, are celebrating their third year of marriage this year.

Charles Harral vs. 29 Palms VERTICAL.jpg Charles Harral

Men's Basketball - Head Coach

 

Charles Harral begins his fourth season as Head Coach of the AWC Matadors.  Since taking over the Matadors men’s basketball program the team has an overall record of 76-21, along with winning the ACCAC Region Title in 2012 and competing in the Region Finals in all three years.  Harral earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise & Sport Science at Texas Tech University, where Harral was a student manager for the Red Raiders’ men’s basketball most notably under NCAA Hall of Famer Bob Knight.  While at TTU, Harral was a part of a coaching staff that went to both the NCAA Tournament and the National Invitational Tournament Finals.  Harral worked as a graduate assistant at the University of Texas-El Paso from 2003-05 and received a Master’s of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies.  While at UTEP, Harral was part of the largest loss-to-win turnaround in NCAA history (03-04) in his first year with the Miners, and was also part of back-to-back Western Athletic Conference titles and two NCAA Tournament berths.  Harral then became an assistant coach at the NJCAA level working first at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith (05-06) and then at South Plains College (06-08).  Harral helped lead UAFS to a 33-win season and an NJCAA D-1 Championship in 2006.  Then during his two season at South Plains helped them to the WJCAC regular season title in 2007 and then helping lead South Plains College to their first NJCAA National Title in 2008 – his second in three seasons. Prior to arriving at AWC, Harral spent two years back at the NCAA Division I level as an assistant at Weber State University in Utah, where his teams once again found the winner’s circle as back-to-back Big Sky Regular Season Champions and NIT Tournament participants.  Harral and his wife Nicole make their home in Yuma; they have a 2 year old son, Dalton.

 

Patrick Cunningham vs. Mesa VERTICAL.jpg Patrick Cunningham

Women's Basketball - Head Coach

Nothing wrong with ‘same auld lang syne’ with the Lady Matadors’ Women’s Basketball program.  Four straight years of Region I Finals appearances.  11 consecutive seasons of 18 wins or more.  And 13 straight years of Patrick Cunningham leading the program to success.  He’s the only coach the program has ever known, having been hired away from Yavapai College in Prescott (where he was a longtime men’s and women’s assistant basketball coach) in 1999 to build the program from the ground up.  Since then, it’s been nothing but success for the cardinal & gold under Cunningham, with a pair of 30-win seasons, 3 ACCAC Regular Season titles, 7 Region I Finals appearances, 9 playoff berths, and one Region I Championship (in 2002) and the trip to the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament that went along with it (which included the Lady Mats’ first-ever national tournament win).  Cunningham has never led a Matador team to a losing record, and that sustained success has brought sustained national respect as the Lady Mats are perennial residents of the NJCAA Women’s Basketball Poll, having risen as high as #2 at one point.  They also finished with a national ranking of 8th, 17th, and 11th over a three-year stretch from 2002 to 2004.  During their 13 years of existence, the Matadors have produced 12 NJCAA All-American players, 5 State Farm WBCA All-Americans, 2 NJCAA All-Academic All-Americans and have sent 18 student-athletes to Division I programs.   On the academic side, two of Cunningham’s last five teams have reached the status of NJCAA All-Academic Teams for a cumulative grade point average of more than 3.0.  Cunningham knows about job security, since his coaching resume’ spans nearly 20 years but only involves two programs:  AWC & Yavapai.
Cunningham is currently a Professor for the Business and Liberal Arts Division (BLAD) at AWC in addition to his coaching duties.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration and Economics from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, and a Master's degree in Business Administration from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. He’s also been a bank manager and financial administrator in the professional world.  Cunningham resides in Yuma with his son, Logan, fiancee’ Nellie Castanon and her daughters, Nadia and Sabrina.
 

Drew Keehn 2 vs. Central Arizona VERTICAL.jpg Drew Keehn

Baseball - Head Coach

Drew Keehn got right to it in his first year at the helm of the program, earning Region I Coach of the Year honors in 2012 as he led his squad to their first Region I Playoff berth in six years last May.  John Stratton hired him to be the team’s first-ever full-time lead assistant in the fall of 2010, and after one year, Stratton saw someone in Keehn that he respected enough to hand the reins of the program to after 27 years.  Keehn overhauled the roster in his first season as head coach, stressing fundamentals and ‘doing the little things’ mercilessly to his new charges.  Keehn’s playing and coaching experience on just about every level of the sport, his respected baseball IQ and his prior ACCAC coaching experience made him an attractive head coaching candidate.  Keehn spent four of the previous 6 seasons before arriving at AWC coaching and recruiting for ACCAC baseball teams, since he earned his first collegiate coaching stripes as an assistant under current Central Arizona Head Baseball coach Jon Wente as an assistant for Wente’s Odessa Junior College Wrangler Baseball team in 2005 before moving with Wente to CAC from 2006 through 2008 as CAC’s recruiting coordinator and pitching coach.  Keehn helped lead the Vaqueros to a pair of Region I Championships, and his final recruiting class eventually reached the 2008 NJCAA World Series Championship Game.  Keehn then made the successful jump to the NCAA Division I level during 2008 as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California.  In three years at LMU, Keehn oversaw a Lions’ pitching staff that finished 3rd in the conference in earned run average and allowed the fewest walks, and the staff helped take the Lions to a 2nd-place finish in the WCC in 2009.  Keehn also spent three summers coaching semi-professional baseball as pitching coach for the Brainard Blue Thunder in ’05, and as head coach of the Liberal Bee Jays in 2006 & 2007.  He has even coached high school ball as head coach at Ironwood Ridge High School in Tucson.  Before Keehn’s coaching career took flight, Drew had a playing career that saw him reach the professional level.  Keehn was a standout pitcher at Central Arizona College from 1992-94, which drew the attention of the Colorado Rockies, who drafted him in the ’93 Major League Baseball Draft.  Keehn’s three years in the Rockies’ organization saw him pitch on the Rookie & Class A levels.  A native of Wyandotte, Michigan, Keehn earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science at the University of Arizona, and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Phoenix.  Keehn and his wife of four years, former 6-time NJCAA All-American and 4-time NAIA All-American track & cross-country star athlete Aybuke Kizilarslan, welcomed their first child, daughter Nisa, into the world right after the start of the Matadors’ 2011 baseball season.

Nikki Bethurum high-five vs. Pima (Reg I Plfs).jpg Nikki Bethurum

Softball - Head Coach

Season #4 at the reins of the AWC Softball program adds an extra focus for Nikki Bethurum, since she wants to return the program to the place that she took them during her first two years… and even beyond that.  Bethurum got out of the gates very quickly as a head coach, taking advantage of her first opportunity to run her own program by leading the Lady Matadors to wins in the first round of the Region I Playoffs in both 2010 & 2011-the first time the Matadors had seen the postseason since 2006.  AWC Athletic Director Jerry Smith gave Bethurum the opportunity to be a head coach after seeing how focused Bethurum was, and after talking to longtime University of Arkansas at Monticello Head Softball Coach Alvy Early about what she did for him as his lead assistant.  Early gave Bethurum a lot of extra coaching duties along with her duties as Recruiting Coordinator and pitching coach during her three-year stint at UAM.  Bethurum’s tutelage helped lead the Lady Cotton Blossoms to the Gulf South Conference West Championship and a berth in the NCAA Division II South Regional Tournament in her first season on the staff, and in 2009, she helped lead the Blossoms to a 38-16 overall mark, a 2nd-place finish in the GSC’s West Division, and her pitching staff featured the conference’s Pitcher of the Year.  Bethurum made the transition from player to coach very quickly.  A 19-win pitcher as a senior for Downey High School and a member of four different traveling softball teams that all qualified for nationals, Bethurum was the first signee of the 2001 recruiting class for University of California-Riverside in the inland empire. After spending her freshman campaign as UCR’s top pitcher, the native of Downey, California, made the decision to head out of the Golden State for the first time by transferring to the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Despite nagging shoulder problems that stayed with her throughout the season, Bethurum was ULM’s top pitcher and hitter. Those same injuries forced Bethurum to move from pitcher/first baseman to shortstop for her final two years as a player, but she started every game and she was an All-Southland Conference Honorable Mention selection as a junior. Nikki also made the honor roll at ULM all three years she was there, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from ULM and graduating with honors in 2006. Bethurum earned her Master’s Degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock in 2009, and besides her coaching duties, is a Professor of Mathematics at AWC.

Tiffany Minnick, Head Spirit Team Coach

Tiffany Minnick

Spirit Team - Head Coach

The recent success and exponential growth of the AWC Spirit Program has been a direct result of the tireless work of Tiffany Minnick, who has spent the better part of three decades keeping cheer and dance teams in the mainstream of the two-year schools she’s been a part of.  If you’d asked her in 2008 if she expected to be entering her fifth year as the head of the AWC Spirit Team in 2014, she would’ve likely replied with an emphatic ‘no’.  That’s when she moved with her husband, Tom, from the Chicago area to AWC in the summer of 2008 so he could become the Matadors’ Head Football Coach.  Tiffany was originally asked to just help out with both the AWC Spirit Squad and Dance Team in 2008-09, but her knowledge and expertise came to the forefront quickly, and she took over as Interim Head Coach early in the spring semester of ‘09.  Since then, Minnick has worked tirelessly to offer opportunities for aspiring cheer and dance student-athletes, tripling the size of the rosters in less than four years.  After cheering herself in high school and college, Minnick began her coaching career in 2003 as the Head Cheer Coach at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois.  It was a tough but invaluable experience, since she was literally starting the program over again from scratch.  The eight-girl squad Minnick started with in the first season eventually grew to a 26-person contingent by the time she left five years later.  During her last three years at JJC, she led them to a pair of cheerleading championships against not just two-year but four-year college, as well as a 2nd-place finish in 2008 solely against junior colleges.  During her playing days, Minnick cheered for two years at the College of DuPage in Illinois while earning her Associate of Arts Degree in Anthropology, then continued her education at Illinois State University, earning her Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Sciences from ISU.  The former Tiffany Malone also met her future husband while at DuPage, and the Minnicks have two children:  14-year-old Payton and 9-year-old Morgan.

Jo Jo Elliott

Athletic Trainer

JoJo Elliot arrived in July 2009 and is about to begin her 6th year at Arizona Western College. Born and raised in the northern California city of Paradise, Elliott first discovered the love for athletic training when she started learning about it as a senior at Paradise High School.  Jo Jo moved on to Butte Community College in Oroville, working with the football and softball teams as part of an intense internship program that taught her valuable ‘hands-on’ experience.  Elliott then moved on to the University of the Pacific, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Sciences, and spent a year gaining valuable non-college experience working as an athletic training student for the Stockton Lightning, a semi-pro football team in the Arena Football League 2.  To earn her Master’s, though, she’d have to venture outside of the borders of California to Idaho, where because of the experience she gained in Stockton, she was tabbed to be the first-ever female graduate assistant athletic trainer for Boise State’s football team.  Elliott oversaw not only the football team’s training needs but also BSU’s first-ever women’s softball team over a two-year period as she earned her Master’s Degree in Athletic Administration from Idaho State University.  Elliott then made the jump from Idaho to Arizona two years ago and has never looked back, jumping at the chance to join the Matadors’ athletic training staff.

   
Cindy Evans, Administrative Secretary Cindy Evans

Athletic Secretary

As the rosters of student-athletes, coaches and staff rotate in the Matador Athletics family annually, one constant has remained over the past 16 years: the steady, consistent (and many times, behind-the-scenes) performance of Cindy Evans. But her tenure in athletics is only half the story for Evans, since she just finished celebrating 30 years at Arizona Western College. You could find Evans at the AWC Bookstore in the old AWC Student Union when she first began as a campus employee in 1981. Evans moved to the school’s Registration Office after that before taking over as Athletic Secretary in 1997. During her tenure in the athletic office, Evans has seen 10 different Matador Athletic teams reach the NJCAA Tournament; has made trips with the AWC Football team to Nassau, New York for the Nassau Bowl in '97, and to Biloxi, Mississippi for the Mississippi Bowl in 2009; and two years ago, saw her first national championship football game at the 2011 El Toro Bowl. Evans has worked for four different athletic directors while at AWC, and continues to be respected for keeping the Matador Athletic offices running smoothly. Evans is married to Brent, who recently retired after a long, successful career as middle school teacher at Castle Dome Middle School, and dotes on her two daughters, Megan and Jennifer, and her five granddaughters.

 

 


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