KCAC Football Divisions to Be Named After Two Legendary KCAC Coaches

KCAC Football Divisions to Be Named After Two Legendary KCAC Coaches

With the addition of Evangel University as a full-member school in 2023, the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) now has 12 football-playing institutions and will move to a two-division format starting this upcoming season. The conference office is proud to announce that the divisions will be named after two legendary coaches from the conference, Dr. Ted Kessinger and Franklin "Gene" Bissell.

"It is my privilege to make this formal announcement today honoring two legendary KCAC football coaches who contributed greatly to the game they loved and to the student-athletes they impacted positively over the course of their careers," Dr. Scott Crawford, KCAC commissioner, stated. "We are proud to name the new KCAC football divisions after Dr. Ted Kessinger and Mr. Gene Bissell."

Dr. Kessinger coached at Bethany College for 28 seasons (1976-2003), winning 219 games, 16 conference championships, and 10 appearances in the NAIA Playoffs. His 219 wins rank No. 7 all-time in the NAIA. Kessinger was the KCAC Coach of the Year 11 times, and never suffered a losing season while at the helm of the Swedes. Kessinger was inducted into the Bethany College Athletics Hall of Honor in 1999, the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2003, the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, and the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 2010.

"I am honored to be mentioned alongside Coach Bissell in the naming of these divisions," Dr. Kessinger remarked. "My family and I are thankful that the conference appreciates what our players and coaches did in the past, and we're looking forward to the KCAC continuing to be one of the quality conferences in the NAIA."

Bissell was the head coach at Kansas Wesleyan University for 26 years, winning 116 games. The Coyotes won the KCAC Football conference title four times in his time as the head coach. Bissell was inducted into the Kansas Wesleyan Coyote Hall of Fame in 1986, the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1991, and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2019. Coach Bissell passed away in 2016.

"My father would be so honored to have a football division named after him in the KCAC," Nancy Tehrune, Bissell's daughter, said. "He loved the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference."

The divisions are set for the 2023 and 2024 seasons. The divisions for those seasons are as follows:

Dr. Ted Kessinger Division

  • Bethany College
  • Bethel College
  • Evangel University
  • Friends University
  • McPherson College
  • Southwestern College

Franklin "Gene" Bissell Division

  • Avila University
  • Kansas Wesleyan University
  • Ottawa University
  • Sterling College
  • Tabor College
  • University of Saint Mary

To set the 2023 and 2024 Divisions, the KCAC utilized total conference wins over the 2020 and 2021 seasons by all KCAC programs. Institutions were then placed into divisions using a snaking method to competitively balance the divisions.

Divisional makeup will be reset every two years to maintain a competitive balance within and between each division.

The 2025 and 2026 divisional makeup will utilize conference wins from the 2022 and 2023 seasons. Teams will be placed into each division using a snaking method based on their overall conference wins.

Each team will play all 11 conference opponents each season. In the 2023 season, cross-division play will begin on August 26 (Week 1), followed by a uniform bye week. Division play will then begin on October 14.

To see the conference football schedule that has been approved for the 2023 and 2024 seasons, click here.

More information on Coach Gene Bissell:

Bissell coached 26 seasons at KWU, retiring as head coach after the 1978 season, but remained at Kansas Wesleyan for several years serving in several capacities before officially retiring from KWU in 1994. He compiled a 116-118-7 overall record and a 98-97-6 record in the KCAC in 26 years coaching the Coyotes. His teams won the KCAC in 1956, 1957, 1969 and 1971. He was twice named NAIA District 10 Coach of the Year before stepping down from the post in 1978. In 1971 Bissell was named NAIA Area 3 Coach of the Year and the following season notched coaching victory number 100.

In addition to coaching football, Bissell served as assistant basketball coach, head track, tennis and golf coach and athletic director. He served as NAIA District 10 Chairman for 15 years and was a member of the National NAIA Policy Making Committee.

Bissell is a member of the North Royalton (Ohio) High School Hall of Fame (1984), the Kansas Wesleyan Coyote Athletic Hall of Fame (1986), the Heidelberg College Hall of Fame (1989) and the NAIA Hall of Fame (1991). He was the 1979 KSAL Sportsman of the Year and received the Distinguished Service Award from KWU in 1986.

The field at the former Glenn L. Martin Stadium at KWU was officially named Bissell Field on October 8, 1994, in a ceremony preceding the Homecoming football game that day against Friends University, in Bissell's honor. The day was also proclaimed as "Gene Bissell Day" by then Salina mayor Joe Warner. The field was rededicated in his honor on October 2, 2015, prior to the inaugural game at the Graves Family Sports Complex on the KWU campus signifying the long-lasting impact that Bissell had on students, athletes, faculty and the community.

Franklin "Gene" Bissell came to Kansas Wesleyan in 1950 as an assistant for coach Wally Forsberg. He had originally planned on heading to Colorado in search of a head coaching job after graduating from Heidelberg College in Ohio. Salina was as far west as Bissell would get, accepting the assistant coach position with KWU and becoming head coach of the football team in 1951 after Forsberg stepped down at the end of the season.

Originally from North Royalton, Ohio, Bissell graduated from Heidelberg College in 1949 after only three years. A defensive tackle and punter during the first three seasons of the Paul Hoernemann era, Bissell started for three years and was co-captain of the undefeated 1948 Ohio Conference championship team. During his playing days the Student Princes compiled a 23-3-1 record, and Bissell earned All-Ohio Conference recognition twice.

While at Heidelberg Bissell also lettered in basketball two years, and pitched for the Student Prince baseball squad. Following his early graduation from Heidelberg in 1949, Bissell entered Case Western Reserve University to work toward his master's degree.

His 1956 squad successfully unseated three-time defending (and undefeated) conference champion College of Emporia on the way to his first KCAC Championship and those successes would carry over into the 1957 season.

In 1969, Bissell again led the Coyotes to the KCAC crown, going 5-0 in the KCAC North Division and defeated Sterling College in the KCAC Championship game 34-21. Two years later, Bissell's Coyotes hoisted to trophy again, going 8-0 in KCAC play, the lone season loss coming to Colorado College.

Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Salina311.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to Salina311.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.