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Drake Bulldogs

The Drake Bulldogs football team represents Drake University in NCAA Division I FCS college football competition.

Team History

The Drake Bulldogs football program has a rich history that dates back to its inception, showcasing a legacy filled with memorable moments, challenges, and achievements. The team’s journey through the years has been marked by periods of remarkable success, as well as times of rebuilding and transformation. The 1981 season stands out as a high point in the modern era of Drake Bulldogs football, with the team achieving a record of 10 wins, which highlighted their potential and competitive spirit. However, their aspirations for a perfect season were dashed by a loss to Tulsa, which also determined the Missouri Valley Conference postseason placements due to the head-to-head tie-breaker. This season is often cited as a testament to the Bulldogs’ capabilities and the high standards they strive to meet.

Following this period of success, the Bulldogs experienced several seasons of challenges, including a decision in the mid-1980s not to award athletic scholarships to football players. This decision raised questions about the future of the program. However, the arrival of Coach Rob Ash in 1989 marked a turning point. Ash’s leadership revitalized the team, leading to the foundation of the Pioneer Football League and a series of conference titles. His tenure underscored the Bulldogs’ resilience and ability to adapt to the changing landscapes of college football.

Foundation and Early Years

Drake University’s football program was founded in the late 19th century, setting the stage for over a century of athletic competition. The early years of the program were characterized by the team’s developing identity and its efforts to establish itself within the collegiate football landscape. These formative years laid the groundwork for the traditions and spirit that would define Drake Bulldogs football. As the team progressed through the early 20th century, it experienced varying degrees of success, navigating the challenges and opportunities that came with each passing season.

The Bulldogs’ early achievements set a precedent for excellence and competitiveness. Participating in significant historical moments, such as the first night game at Soldier Field against Oregon in 1930, the Bulldogs not only contributed to college football history but also demonstrated their willingness to be part of groundbreaking events. These early accomplishments helped cement the team’s reputation and showcased the potential for greatness that Drake University aimed to cultivate within its football program.

Notable Early Achievements

One of the Bulldogs’ early notable achievements includes their participation in groundbreaking events such as playing in the first night game at Soldier Field in 1930 against Oregon, a contest that marked a significant moment in college football history. Additionally, the team’s successes in the early to mid-20th century, including victories in bowl games like the Raisin Bowl and the Salad Bowl, underscored their competitive spirit and ability to achieve on the national stage.

Periods of Change

The Bulldogs’ history is marked by several pivotal periods of change that have shaped the direction of the program. The mid-1980s decision to discontinue athletic scholarships for football players was a controversial move that reflected broader shifts in collegiate athletics and the emphasis on maintaining the amateur status of student-athletes. This decision, along with changes in NCAA regulations, led to a brief discontinuation of the football program, which was later revived under a non-scholarship model. The transition to the Pioneer Football League was another significant change that reflected Drake’s commitment to providing a competitive football environment despite the challenges posed by scholarship and regulatory changes.

The leadership transitions within the coaching staff have also been instrumental in navigating the program through periods of change. The tenure of Rob Ash stands out for revitalizing the Bulldogs’ football program and establishing its presence within the Pioneer Football League. Ash’s contributions went beyond the field, as he became the winningest coach in Drake’s history, leaving a legacy of success and adaptability. Following Ash, the program has seen several coaches, each bringing their vision and leadership to the team, guiding the Bulldogs through the evolving landscape of college football and striving for excellence both on and off the field.

Championships and Achievements

Throughout its history, the Drake Bulldogs football team has accumulated a series of championships and achievements that highlight the program’s success and competitive spirit. The team has won multiple conference titles, spanning different eras and leagues, including the Missouri Valley Conference and the Pioneer Football League. These championships are a testament to the team’s ability to excel and lead within their competitive environments. Notably, the Bulldogs’ recent undisputed conference title and playoff bid in 2023 underline the program’s ongoing pursuit of excellence and its ability to compete at a high level.

The achievements of the Bulldogs extend beyond conference titles to include memorable bowl game victories and participation in significant postseason play. Historical bowl game wins, such as those in the Raisin Bowl and Salad Bowl, are cherished parts of the Bulldogs’ legacy. Additionally, the team’s participation in NCAA Division I-AA/FCS playoffs, including their first appearance in 2023, marks a significant milestone in the program’s history, showcasing its growth and the continuing evolution of Drake Bulldogs football on the national stage.

Current Roster

The current roster of the Drake Bulldogs represents a blend of emerging talent and seasoned athletes, all united by a common goal: to build upon the legacy of their predecessors and push the program to new heights. This roster is a dynamic entity, reflecting the recruitment and development strategies of the coaching staff, aimed at cultivating a competitive and cohesive team. The dedication and talent of these athletes are critical to the Bulldogs’ efforts to achieve success in the Pioneer Football League and beyond, as they embody the commitment, resilience, and sportsmanship that the programstrives to uphold.

Management and Coaching Staff

The management and coaching staff of the Drake Bulldogs football team play a pivotal role in shaping the program’s direction, strategy, and culture. The leadership provided by the head coach and his assistants is crucial in developing the skills, discipline, and teamwork required to compete at a high level. The coaching staff’s responsibilities extend beyond the field, encompassing player recruitment, game strategy, and the overall development of student-athletes. The transition from Rob Ash, the winningest coach in Drake’s history, to the current head coach, Todd Stepsis, illustrates the program’s continuity and evolution. Each coach has brought their philosophy and approach to the program, contributing to its rich history and tradition of excellence.

The coaching staff’s ability to adapt and innovate has been especially important in navigating the challenges and opportunities presented by the non-scholarship model and the competitive landscape of the Pioneer Football League. The recent success under Coach Stepsis, including the program’s first undisputed conference title since 2004 and a historic playoff bid, underscores the positive impact of strong leadership. The management and coaching staff’s commitment to excellence, both on and off the field, continues to drive the Bulldogs forward, fostering an environment where athletes can thrive academically, athletically, and personally.

Home Stadium Information

Drake Stadium, the home of the Bulldogs, is not just a venue for football games; it is a historic site that has witnessed countless memorable moments in Drake’s athletic history. Opened in 1925, the stadium has a seating capacity of 14,557 and serves multiple purposes, including hosting the prestigious Drake Relays. This annual track and field event attracts athletes from across the globe and is a highlight of the athletic calendar, showcasing the stadium’s versatility and the university’s commitment to supporting diverse athletic programs. The stadium’s role in the community and its significance in collegiate athletics make it a central hub for sports in Des Moines.

The facilities at Drake Stadium, combined with its rich history, provide an inspiring backdrop for the Bulldogs’ football games. The stadium’s atmosphere during home games reflects the passion and support of Drake fans, creating a competitive advantage for the home team. The ongoing maintenance and upgrades to the stadium ensure that it remains a top-class facility, suitable for hosting a wide range of sporting events. The stadium’s significance extends beyond its physical attributes, symbolizing the enduring spirit and tradition of Drake Bulldogs athletics.

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