North Central College head football coach John Thorne has announced the hiring of Mike Murray as the Cardinals' new defensive coordinator.
A former head coach with experience as a coordinator on both offense and defense at College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) rival Illinois Wesleyan University, Murray will assume responsibility for all facets of the defensive unit for the seven-time defending conference champions.
"This was the best hire we could have made for this job and for the College," Thorne said. "Mike and I have known each other for quite a few years, even before we started coaching against each other. It was great when we saw he was interested in the opening we had, and we're really happy we were able to bring him in."
A 1984 graduate of Illinois Wesleyan, Murray played football and baseball for four years before graduating with a bachelor's degree in business administration. He earned Honorable Mention All-CCIW honors as a tight end in football in 1983 and currently ranks 25th in IWU history in career and single-season receptions. He finished his collegiate baseball career with a .330 batting average, earning All-CCIW accolades in 1983 and 1984.
Murray began his coaching career with the Titans, serving as the program's defensive coordinator from 1987-1996, also serving as IWU's head track and field and men's golf coach and athletic recruiting coordinator during that time. He moved on to the University of Dubuque (Iowa) as the Spartans' head coach from 1997-2000 before serving in the same capacity at Benedictine University during the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
He next coached with the Bloomington (Ill.) Extreme of the Indoor Football League as the team's offensive coordinator in 2005 before returning to IWU in 2006. He spent two seasons as the Titans' offensive coordinator before moving to defense in 2008, also taking over as the program's recruiting coordinator.
Murray's defense had its best year in 2009, leading the CCIW in nearly every defensive category, including total defense (250.2 yards per game), scoring defense (16.6 ppg), rushing defense (87.5 ypg) and passing defense (162.8 ypg) as the Titans shared the CCIW title with North Central and qualified for the NCAA Division III Football Championship. He left IWU following the 2010 season and took over as the Bloomington Extreme's head coach before spending the past year as the director of the Redbird 4 Life Club at Illinois State University.
He inherits a Cardinal defense which ranked 12th nationally in total defense (272.3 ypg), 16th in rushing defense (90.3 ypg), 17th in defensive passing efficiency (101.76) and eighth in quarterback sacks (3.33 per game) in 2012 and has led the CCIW in total defense in each of the past three seasons.
"North Central plays the game how it's supposed to be played," he said, "with great passion, energy and enthusiasm, and sound technique. On the other sideline, you knew you had to be at your absolute best to match that level of play. The student-athletes here really are achievers and want to do well, and that's been proven the last few years.
"I knew once John took over at North Central that it wouldn't be long until the program emerged, and it wasn't, so the success of the program is a big draw for me, as well as the big goal that's still out there. I don't see any hurdles that are insurmountable in trying to reach that ultimate goal."
Murray plans to begin getting acquainted with the staff and a highly-energized group of players as soon as possible in order to hit the ground running at the start of spring practice.
"The players are very excited, a little jumpy in fact, which is what you want them to be," Thorne said. "They liked all the people we interviewed, but when they found out that Mike would be taking over, they were really excited and I think they agreed with us that this was the right direction for the program."
The Cardinals finished the 2012 campaign ranked seventh by D3football.com and 10th by the American Football Coaches Association. North Central opens the 2013 season Saturday, Sept. 14 at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.