Michael Harrison | Assistant Coach
Michael Harrison returned to his alma mater and the McKendree football coaching staff in January 2015. He serves as the Bearcats' assistant head coach and defensive passing game coordinator.
Harrison's secondary again stood out as one of the top position groupings in the Great Lakes Valley Conference in 2016. As a team, McKendree led the league in interceptions with 17 while topping the nine GLVC squads in defensive passing efficiency. Those two statistics helped the Bearcats lead the GLVC in total defense.
The 2016 season also saw the emergence of cornerback Nate Powell as one of the GLVC's top defenders. Powell ranked among league leaders with three interceptions. He had two picks during the Bearcats' season-opener at home against Angelo State, the second of which went for a 50-yard touchdown that helped turn the tables in McKendree's favor on the way to a 33-19 victory. Powell was one of six Bearcats to earn first-team All-GLVC honors in 2016.
Blake Benoist also came on as one of the top freshman defenders in the conference in 2016. Benoist led all McKendree defensive backs with 60 tackles while tying Powell for the team lead with three interceptions.
In his return to the Bearcats' sidelines in 2015, Harrison coached one of the top groups in the GLVC. McKendree led the league in scoring defense, giving up just 19.8 points per game. The Bearcats were second among GLVC teams in passing defense as well, allowing just over 200 yards per outing through the air. Harrison's charges gave up just 13 passing touchdowns in 2015, which was the second-fewest among the nine conference teams.
Safety Cruz Navarro closed out his McKendree career by finishing second on the team with 70 tackles in 2015. Cornerback Jabaree Winston added 46 tackles and an interception on his way to second-team All-GLVC accolades. Fellow cornerback Nate Powell battled his way into the starting lineup during the season and earned honorable mention All-Conference honors.
Harrison is certainly no stranger to McKendree football fans. He returns for his second tour of duty at McKendree after spending two seasons as the defensive coordinator at nearby Lindenwood University-Belleville. Under his tutelage, the Lynx ranked 10th in the NAIA in sacks per game in 2014. Harrison also served as the travel coordinator for the program and was also the summer camp director while at Lindenwood-Belleville.
Before his time at Lindenwood-Belleville, Harrison spent six years on the Bearcats’ coaching staff in a variety of capacities. Harrison served as defensive backs coach, special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator from 2007-11 at McKendree before being elevated to the role of defensive coordinator for the 2012 campaign. He helped coach the Bearcats to their final two NAIA Football Championship Series appearances in 2009 and 2010. In addition to his coaching responsibilities, Harrison was also the academic coordinator for the McKendree football program.
Prior to his coaching days at McKendree, Harrison was a three-year letterman and starter in the Bearcats’ secondary. Harrison earned first-team NAIA All-America honors following his senior season in 2006. That year he led the Bearcats with 55 tackles and four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Harrison was a two-time All-Conference selection in the Mid-States Football Association.
For his playing career Harrison had nine interceptions, which is still tied for second on the Bearcats’ career list. He led the team in interceptions in each of his final two seasons at McKendree.
In addition to his exploits on the gridiron, Harrison spent three years as a member of the McKendree baseball program. He batted .300 or better in each of his two seasons as a varsity performer, earning honorable mention All-Conference honors after batting a career-best .358 with 43 runs scored, 16 stolen bases and 14 runs batted during in 2006. He was also a two-time Academic All-Conference honoree in baseball for the Bearcats.
Harrison and his wife Lindsey reside in St. Louis with their baby daughter Amiya Jordan.
Joe Bettasso | Assistant Coach
Joe Bettasso joined the McKendree football coaching staff in January 2015. He is the Bearcats' defensive coordinator and also coaches the team's linebacking unit.
The Bearcats' 2016 defense ranked among the top units in the Great Lakes Valley Conference once again. For the second year in a row, McKendree led the league in scoring defense, allowing a paltry 18.4 points per outing. The Bearcats also had the conference's top overall defensive squad, giving up just 315.7 yards per contest. As a team, McKendree set a new program record with 53 sacks and ranked among NCAA Division II team leaders in the category.
Bettasso guided two of the top defensive players in the GLVC during their final seasons in a Bearcat uniform in 2016. Linebacker A.J. Wentland set a school single-season record for the third consecutive year with 145 tackles, and became the Bearcats' career leader in stops with 421. For his efforts, Wentland was named the 2016 GLVC Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the second McKendree player in three seasons to capture the honor.
The other McKendree GLVC Defensive Player of the Year, defensive end Lucky Baar (who was the 2014 winner) made his assault on both the McKendree and NCAA record books in 2016. In just nine games, Baar registered 17 1/2 sacks and 21 1/2 tackles for loss, which led the Bearcats. With the final sack of his career, Baar became the NCAA Division II career leader in the category, finishing his playing days with 46 1/2 sacks. He also collected 65 1/2 tackles for loss, which is also a new McKendree program mark.
Baar earned numerous post-season honors, including first-team All-GLVC accolades for the third straight season. He was an AP Little All-American for the second time in three years, and also collected first-team All-America accolades from the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA).
In his first year at McKendree in 2015, Bettasso helped engineer a turnaround that saw the Bearcats rise to become one of the top units in the GLVC. McKendree paced all GLVC teams in scoring defense, allowing just 19.8 points per contest. In addition, the Bearcats ranked third among all conference squads in total defense. In the final NCAA Division II statistical report for 2015, McKendree was fourth among all teams in sacks per game, taking the opposing quarterback down behind the line of scrimmage 3.5 times per game.
Seven Bearcats collected All-GLVC honors in 2015, led by junior linebacker A.J. Wentland. For the second year in a row, Wentland established a new program record for tackles in a season, posting 135 stops which was good for eighth among all NCAA Division II players. Defensive ends Brett Pearman and Lucky Baar combined for 27 tackles for loss and 15 1/2 quarterback sacks in 2015.
In 2014, the McKendree linebacking corps continued to shine and was led by sophomore linebacker A.J. Wentland. A starter in all 11 games at middle linebacker, Wentland rewrote the Bearcats' annals by registering a school-record 132 tackles. He also tied for the team lead with two interceptions on his way to first-team All-GLVC honors. Four of McKendree's top five tacklers in 2014 were linebackers, including senior Bryce Colvin. A three-year starter for the Bearcats, Colvin matched his uniform number with 52 tackles to close his career with 178 stops.
Bettasso came to McKendree after spending three years on the coaching staff at Quincy University. Bettasso joined the Hawks’ staff as a defensive backs coach before being elevated to the role of defensive coordinator prior to the 2013 season. He was responsible for all facets of the Quincy defensive scheme, including play-calling. Under his leadership in 2014, the Hawks ranked second in Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) in total defense and rushing defense.
Before his time at Quincy, Bettasso spent five seasons at McPherson College in Kansas. From 2007-09, He served the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator during that time while also coaching the program’s linebackers and defensive backs. Following the 2009 season, Bettasso was promoted to the role of head football coach at McPherson, a position he held for two years before heading to Quincy.
In 2010 – Bettasso’s first as the head coach at McPherson – he led the Bulldogs to a school-record 10 victories and the program’s highest NAIA national ranking at No. 6. He was named as the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) and American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Region 4 Coach of the Year for his efforts. Bettasso guided McPherson to the school’s first KCAC championship since 1952 and the program’s second NAIA Football Championship Series berth. Ironically, McPherson hosted McKendree in a first-round playoff game that year, with the Bearcats posting a 38-14 win in the meeting. That game marked the Bearcats' final post-season football victory as members of the NAIA. It was also the 200th collegiate coaching win for former McKendree head coach Carl Poelker.
Bettasso began his coaching career as a student assistant and later a graduate assistant coach at his alma mater, Missouri Southern State University. Bettasso was also a four-year letterman as a defensive back with the Lions. He paced Missouri Southern with 8 ½ tackles for loss as a junior in 2004 and followed that with a team-leading two fumble recoveries during his senior season of 2005.
Nick Franey | Graduate Assistant Coach
Nick Franey joined the McKendree University football coaching staff in the summer of 2017. Franey will serve as a graduate assistant in the Bearcats' program and will coach the running backs.
Franey comes to McKendree after serving the 2016-17 academic year as an athletics intern at Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo. He assisted in video production of different sporting events while also helping in the game-day experience for the Eagles' fans.
In the summer of 2016, Franey was a football staff intern at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. There, he was a camp coordinator while also assisting as an equipment manager and video manager. Franey helped design and create playbooks and call sheets as well.
From 2010-14, Franey was a member of the coaching staff of the Mehlville Junior Panthers. He was a coach for the eighth-grade team, assisting with the offensive line.
Franey earned his bachelor's degree in sports management from Central Methodist. He was a three-year member of the Dean's List and was also a member of the Eagles' football squad. Franey was an offensive lineman at CMU, where he garnered Scholar-Athlete honors in 2015-16.