Kent Kessinger is in his 12th season as the Braves head football coach.
In Kessinger’s 12 years has head coach, the Braves have captured four KCAC Championships and has qualified for six straight NAIA Championship Series. He has earned three KCAC Coach of the Year honors, and was named Region 3 Coach of the Year in 2009. Kessinger has coached five AFCA NAIA All-Americans, 26 NAIA All-Americans, 184 All-KCAC performers, four KCAC Players of the Year, one KCAC Offensive Player of the year, two KCAC Defensive Players of the Year, and one KCAC Special Teams Player of the Year.
In 2014 the Braves qualified for their sixth straight NAIA Football Championship Series and won their fourth KCAC Championship in six years. OU had 16 players named to the All-KCAC teams with Luke Lundy and Dominic Sigala earning KCAC Players of the Year. Lundy was also named AFCA NAIA Second Team All-American. The Braves did well in the classroom with two players being named Daktronic Scholar Athletes and Jon Oxley earning Capital One Academic All-American College Division honors.
The OU football team continued to soar to new heights under Kessinger’s leadership in 2013. The Braves finished the season with an overall record of 8-4 and a KCAC record of 7-2. OU upset no. 2 Missouri Valley College the second game of the season, it was the third victory against a team ranked in the top three in the NAIA Football Coaches Top 25 Poll in program history. The Braves also qualified for the program’s fifth straight NAIA Football Championship Series. OU had 15 players named to the All-KCAC Teams with Deron Bruce being named KCAC Defensive Player of the Year. Bruce was also named Second Team NAIA AFCA All-American, earned BSN NAIA All-American honors, and was a finalist for the Cliff Harris Small College Football Defensive Player of the Year. The Braves also excelled in the classroom as well with Jon Hilliger being named a Capital One Academic First Team All-American and Hilliger, Travis Adamson, and Jon Oxley being named Daktronic Scholar Athletes.
2012 was another banner year for the OU football team, finishing with an overall record of 8-3 and 8-1 record in the KCAC. Under Kessinger’s leadership the Braves qualified for their fourth straight NAIA Football Championship Series and won their third KCAC Championship in four years. Because of their play on the field, the Braves were awarded with offseason awards. There were 22 football players earning All-KCAC honors with quarterback Shane Gimzo being named KCAC Player of the Year and defensive back Donald Anderson earning KCAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. Anderson earned the program’s fourth straight AFCA NAIA All-American honor and he was named BSN NAIA Defensive Player of the Year. The Braves made their mark in the classroom as well with four players earning Daktronic Scholar Athlete honors, Logan Schultz and Matt Gross earned Capital One Academic All-District 6 First Team honors, Schultz was named a Capital One Academic All-American First Team, and Gross was named to the Capital One Academic All-American Second Team.
In 2011 the Braves finished with an overall record of 9-3 and a first place finish in the KCAC with a perfect 9-0 record. Kessinger hit a milestone by picking up win number 50 with a 72-6 victory over Bethel College on November 12, 2011. The conference championship was OU’s second in three seasons. With Kessinger at the helm, the Braves qualified for their third straight NAIA Football Championship Series, a first in the program’s history. OU had 18 players earn All-KCAC honors with Clarence Anderson being named KCAC Player of the Year. Kessinger was named Co-KCAC Coach of the Year and OU defensive coordinator, Josh Homolka, was named KCAC Assistant Coach of the Year. Anderson was named an AFCA All-American for the second straight season. Zach Van Deusen and Anderson were both named BSN NAIA All-Americans. The Braves also excelled in the classroom as well with Matt Gross and Logan Schultz being named Capital One Academic First Team All-District 6. Gross became the program’s first Capital One Academic All-American when he earned Second Team honors. Gross, Schultz, Bobby Adamson, Travis Adamson, Adam Henn, and CJ Krugg were named Daktronic Scholar Athletes.
Under Kessinger’s leadership in 2010 OU qualified for its second straight NAIA Championship Series, a first in school history. The Braves finished the season with a record of 9-2 overall and 8-1 in the KCAC. OU had 18 players earn All-KCAC honors and Clarence Anderson became OU’s second straight AFCA NAIA All-American selection. Anderson, Josh Hojje, and Seth Homolka were all named to the Victory Sports Network NAIA All-American Team. The Braves excelled in the classroom as well. OU had five players earn Daktronic Scholar Athlete honors and Max Brown was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District First Team. He is the first OU student athlete to benamed to the first team. The OU offense continued to put up large numbers. The Braves were ranked ninth in the NAIA in passing yards per game (270.1), ninth in scoring offense per game (41), 10th in total points scored (451), 10th in total passing yards (2,971), 19th in total offensive yards per game (417.8), and 20th in first downs per game (21.2).
The Braves flew to new heights in 2009 with Coach Kessinger at the helm. He led the Braves to an 11-1 record, including a 9-0 KCAC record; the 11 wins are a school record. OU won its first KCAC title since the 2003 season and also won the program’s first NAIA playoff game. The Braves hosted the first round of the playoffs for the first time in school history and came from behind to defeat GPAC member Hastings College, 40-34. Because of his efforts Coach Kessinger was named KCAC Coach of the Year and earned the KCAC’s and OU’s first AFCA Regional Coach of the Year award.
The Braves also had one player earn the program’s first AFCA NAIA All-American honor with Corey Schultz receiving the award at receiver. Coach Kessinger had 19 players earn All-KCAC honors with Ethan Haller earning KCAC Offensive Player of the Year and earning the overall MVP award for the conference. During the 2009 season, 23 school records were either broken or tied by the Braves with Haller breaking seven offensive records including the career passing yards mark (7,764) that had stood for 44 years. On offense the Braves led the NAIA in passing yards per game (413.8) and was first in total passing yards (4,965). On defense OU led the NAIA in sacks per game (4) and total sacks (47.5). Ottawa was second in the NAIA in total offense (509.7) and third in total scoring (528). Coach Kessinger’s offense scored over 500 points for the first time in program history. The Braves defense finished the season ranked 47th in the NAIA in total defense (358.4). OU was 13th in rush defense (98.6) and 43rd in pass defense efficiency (119.8). Kessinger had two players finish first in the NAIA in offensive statistical categories. Clarence Anderson finished first in all-purpose yards per game (213.6), first in receiving yards per game (141.6) and first in total receiving yards (1,699). Haller led the NAIA in passing yards per game (406.8), in total offense (4,772) and in total passing yards (4,772). In the classroom the Braves continue to excel with three players earning NAIA Daktronics Scholar Athletes; Andy Otto, Jamison Shaw and Taylor Leftwich. OU had two players earn ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District with Otto and Jamison earning District 7 second team honors. It was Jamison’s second selection to the team and Otto’s first.
Under Coach Kessinger’s leadership in 2008, the Braves finished with an overall record of 8-2 and a second place finish in the KCAC with a record of 7-2 after being picked to finish in the bottom half of the KCAC at the 2008 Football Media Day. The Braves finished the regular season with a ranking in the NAIA Football Coaches Top 25 Poll of 20th, its highest since the 2003 season. Coach Kessinger’s team broke and or set 19 school records. The defense continued to be one of the top in the NAIA with a final ranking of 15th in total defense (280 yards per game). The offense finished as one of the top in the NAIA with a final ranking of eighth in total offense (441.2 yards per game).
OU’s play on the field resulted in 23 student athletes earning All-KCAC honors, nine players earning KCAC Player of the Week honors and three earning All-American recognition. Tight end Taylor Burnett was a second team selection and receiver Chris Simms and linebacker Ross Diehl were honorable mention selections. Diehl finished fourth in the NAIA in sacks per game (1.1) and quarterback Ethan Haller was seventh in passing yards per game (288.2).
OU also performed well in the classroom and for the second straight year OU had a player earn ESPN The Magazine’s Academic All-District football team as selected by CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America). Senior offensive lineman, Chris McClellan earned the honor this season and was a secondt team District 7 selection. He was also a finalist for the 2008 Draddy Trophy.
Coach Kessinger also had five NAIA Scholar Athlete selections with McClellan, Andy Otto, Will Allison, Jamison Shaw and Taylor Leftwich all earning the honor. Four Braves were also selected to participate in the College Fanz/Victory Sports Network NAIA “Senior Classic”, Chris Hurd, Evander Williams, Jermaine Thomas, Thomas Pearson and Kelly Albee.
In 2007 OU improved by three games. The Braves defense shined, finishing 30th in the NAIA in total defense. Ottawa’s pass defense finished in the top 10 in the NAIA at 147.9 yards per game, good for eighth place.
The improvement showed in the post season recognition as 16 players earned All-KCAC recognition. On the field, OU defensive lineman, Brandon Smith, finished second in the NAIA in sacks per game (1.2) and receiver Matt Middleton broke the school record for receptions in a career (159). Smith earned Victory Sports Networks Second Team All-American recognition.
OU had two players earn national honors for their academics. Jamison Shaw was selected to ESPN The Magazine’s Academic All-District football team as selected by CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America), earning second team honors in District 7. This was the first time in school history that OU had a student-athlete earn the honor. Greg Guzman earned OU’s second academic honor. He was selected to the 2007 Football Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete team.
For the second straight season, OU had a participants in the VSN Senior Classic with Middleton and Smith being selected for the game.
In his third season at OU, 2006-07, the team finished 1-9 with its lone victory over Southwestern College, 20-9. OU had five players earn All-KCAC recognition. OU’s passing defense finished ranked seventh in the nation and for the first time OU had a player selected to the VSN Senior Classic when receiver Calvin Davenport earned the honor.
In 2005 the Braves had a 5-5 record with a non-conference victory over Peru State. The defense once again shined as they finished 10th in overall defense, giving up 264.7 yards per game.
In 2004, Kessinger’s first season as OU’s head coach, OU finished 3-7 with victories over Southwestern, Kansas Wesleyan and McPherson. The defense was the cornerstone of the Braves. The pass defense finished 21st in the NAIA giving up 166.7 yards through the air.
Prior to coming to Ottawa, Kessinger served as the offensive coordinator at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. Under Kessinger’s leadership the offense matured into one of the more explosive offensive teams in the North Central Conference (NCC) and in NCAA Division II. While at Augustana, Kessinger had the opportunity to develop an exciting style of offense that has been ranked nationally in total offense (1999, #24, 2000, #14), passing offense.
A native of Lindsborg, Kan., Kessinger earned his B.A. at Bethany College in 1992 after attending the Air Force Academy Prep School for one year. While at Bethany, he started every game for a team that won three straight conference championships and reached the NAIA national playoffs three out of four years. Kessinger was also a 1990 and 1991 NAIA All-American, all-conference offensive lineman 1989-91, and NAIA Scholar Athlete in 1990 and 1991. Kessinger was inducted into Bethany’s Athletic Hall of Honor in 2001. Kessinger completed his master’s degree in exercise science at Minnesota State University- Mankato.
Kent and his wife, Amy, have two children - Courtney and Caleb. Amy works in Ottawa University’s Financial Aid Office.