The football coach who a year ago brought back-to-back winning seasons at Southwestern Oklahoma State University and a share of the Lone Star Conference North Division title has resigned to pursue opportunities awaiting him in the business world.
Ryan Held notified his assistant coaches and players following the Bulldogs game Saturday against Oklahoma Panhandle State University of his intentions. He will continue on as coach for SWOSU’s final game of the season Saturday, Nov. 8 at Texas A&M University-Commerce, according to SWOSU athletic director Todd Thurman.
“I want to thank Southwestern for the opportunity they gave me to coach football here,” said Held. “It has been a privilege and an honor to work with the many coaches and players over the last four years. I will truly miss my association and relationship with them. I am proud of the many successes we have achieved together as a team since I’ve been here.”
The Bulldogs are 3-7 overall this season and 1-3 in the Lone Star’s North Division. 2008 has been a tough year for the Bulldogs, losing several prominent and key starters with season-ending injuries. The severity and the number of the injured forced many untested replacements into the starting rotation. Still, even with a patchwork lineup, Held and the Bulldogs stood toe-to-toe with the conference’s elite. SWOSU either led or were tied in three games – Tarleton State, Southeastern Oklahoma State, Central Oklahoma -- before losing late in the fourth quarter.
“I’m a competitive guy, and it was disappointing to not win more games than we did. It’s certainly not the ending I had preferred,” Held said. “I do know that this program has some great young players, it’s in the best shape possible, and ready for someone else to lead it to even bigger things.”
Held made it clear that his decision to resign was neither forced nor encouraged, but something that he had been considering for some time before deciding to close this chapter in his career.
“I want to thank the faculty, students, staff and alumni for their support and passion they showed for the Bulldog football program,” Held said. “Most importantly, I want to thank the players who believed in each other and laid it on the line every day in practice and in every game. My greatest joy was the chance to build lasting relationships with these young men and to have coached them. I hope each knows how much they mean to me.”
Thurman has appointed longtime SWOSU football assistant Todd Helton as the interim coach while a committee is formed to assist in the search for Held’s successor.
“We intend to do an extensive and immediate search to ensure the best possible candidate leads our football program,” Thurman said. “Ryan Held took a football program that was in need of a new direction and provided leadership and brought the Bulldogs back to respectability,” said Thurman. “He worked tirelessly for SWOSU to build a winning program. He not only did that, but he did it with an emphasis on academic achievement, personal character and personal accountability.
Held currently has a combined record of 16-27 at SWOSU. His 2006 and 2007 teams finished with identical 6-5 record, marking the first time since 1992 that SWOSU had back-to-back winning years. The 2007 team forced a five-way tie atop the LSC North Division standings by beating Texas A&M-Commerce in front of an appreciative home crowd on the final day of the season.Prior to coming to SWOSU, Held spent three years at Panhandle State University, where he turned the Aggies into winners, going 6-5 in back-to-back years. Held’s career head coaching record is 35-51 (.407) which includes a 14-19 record at OPSU and a 5-5 year at Peru State in 2001.
Held played at the University of Nebraska under former coach Tom Osborne from 1993-96. After graduating in 1996, Held remained with the Huskers serving as an administrative assistant. He then joined the University of Tennessee staff under Coach Phil Fulmer as a graduate assistant in 1998. Held either played for or was part of four NCAA National Championship squads (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998).
12 years overall (includes graduate assistant work at Nebraska and Tennessee)
Eight years as head coach with an overall record of 35-51 (.407)
Became a collegiate head coach at the age of 25 at Peru State in Nebraska in 1991
Has played on or coached (4) four NCAA/BCS National Championship teams (Nebraska ‘94, ‘95, ‘97) and Tennessee (‘98).
Year School W-L Pct.
2001 Peru State 5-5 .500
2002 Panhandle 2-9 .181
2003 Panhandle 6-5 .545
2004 Panhandle 6-5 .545
2005 SWOSU 1-10 .091
2006 SWOSU 6-5 .545
2007 SWOSU 6-5 .545
2008 SWOSU 3-7 .300
Overall Record 35-51 .407