COUNCIL BLUFFS — Contrary to what some may think, Marc Rardin isn’t heartbroken that the streak is over.
Sure, the Iowa Western coach would’ve rather made a seventh straight appearance in the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., than sit in his office this week. But losing in the Northern District tournament for the first time since 2006 didn’t discourage him.
In fact, it had the opposite effect.
“I’m ready for the fall. That’s what it’s done for me,” he said. “I’m honestly ready to get back and start doing it all over again. And I honestly haven’t had that the last couple of years.”
Rardin usually reserves late May for chasing a national title — and his team won one two of the past three years. This year, though, he spent his time evaluating his program, not dwelling on the defeat.
“You would’ve thought I lost a loved one, with the texts and the emails I’d get,” he said. “No one was wanting to call me. I’m 42 years old. I can handle losing just like I can handle winning.
“I’m not retiring. It ain’t over. Let’s do this again.”
Iowa Western has become a national junior college power in baseball under Rardin. The Reivers have won nine consecutive Region XI titles, seven district crowns and a pair of national championships — the first ever by a Northern school. Until it dropped three of four games to Marshalltown this year, IWCC hadn’t lost a league series in 11 years with Rardin.
The coach recently picked up his 500th career win and has won 76 percent of his games — he has a 503-167 career record — since taking over the Reiver program in 2003. And IWCC has been nationally relevant despite playing with half the 24 scholarships given by some NJCAA teams.
Iowa Western was 45-14 this season and was ranked No. 2 when it fell short in the district tourney.
“Two-out hits win championships, but we weren’t getting them,” Rardin said. “If we would’ve had two of them, we win. That’s the difference. And that’s what makes what we’ve done up to this point amazing. Nothing deterred us from winning. In baseball, that’s pretty good.”
Rardin said the victories and championships are meaningful because they’ve proven the system he’s incorporated at Iowa Western works. From the beginning, he’s wanted his staff to recruit aggressively, be organized and have a sense of urgency to get the right players.
And, most of all, he wanted his program at Iowa Western to have a big-time feel.
“This is my Baylor, my Florida State, my Cal State Fullerton,” he said. “We’re going to do things a certain way. We’re not going to shortchange ourselves and think of this as a glorified high school or community college, that we’re a bunch of renegades that nobody wants.
“There’s not an ounce of rag-tag disorganization to it.”
Rardin said a key to the consistent success for the Reivers is the ability to recruit the type of players who fit his system. He’s also made sure his staff didn’t deviate from that practice once the team won a national title, saying he told his assistants not to “forget how we got here.”
Iowa Western has a track record of landing talented players who have moved on to success at the NCAA Division I level. In fact, former Reivers Keaton Steele, Tanner Krietemeier, Sam Bumpers, Brandon Bass and Brandon Tierney all received postseason honors in D-I conferences this week.
“Those guys are my kids,” Rardin said. “The cool thing is knowing where they come from and how hard they worked for us here. There’s incredible pride for me.”
Four-year schools have taken notice. A number of coaches have visited Iowa Western, Rardin said, just to see how he runs his program. He’s also done plenty of speaking around the Midwest and has recorded a pair of coaching videos through Championship Productions.
Still, he hasn’t been asked much about leaving Council Bluffs. Rardin’s name has been brought up in connection with the vacancy at Iowa, and the athletic director from McNeese State has inquired about his interest in the head coaching position with the Cowboys.
The Iowa job, in particular, could get Rardin’s attention. He “grew up a Hawkeye” on a farm near Lamont in the northeast part of the state and is familiar with the program in Iowa City.
No one from the school has contacted him. Rardin suggested he’d take a wait-and-see approach, knowing it isn’t often that a Division I school calls on a junior college coach.
He also knows he’s built something unique at Iowa Western.
“I’ve got a great job here and a great situation,” he said. “This place is special. We win, and win big, and there’s a reason why. If I’m here for the next 15 years, there won’t be one tear in my milk.”
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