Northeastern Oklahoma A&M coach Dale Patterson returned to the school before last season to help provide stability for the once-great junior-college power.
Patterson was the last NEO coach to lead it to sustained success when he went 60-26 and won three conference titles as head coach between 1996 and 2003.
He left NEO to become Oklahoma State's assistant director of football operations, a job he did for seven years under Les Miles and Mike Gundy.
I'm the only head coach in NEO history to be an alum. I played here, coached here, went to school here. I just felt a desire to do what I could to help.
I played here in 1965 and 1966. I played center.
I went to Drake University in Iowa to finish my college, and coached high school football in Iowa for one year.
I came back to Oklahoma and coached at Cushing, and in 1975 I went back to my hometown, Okmulgee.
I was an assistant, then head coach for a year before I came back to NEO as defensive coordinator in 1981.
I got out of coaching for a couple years when I became dean of admissions from 1989 until I got back in coaching.
Until 1996, we had been an independent and could recruit unlimited out-of-staters. We got to be so good that people didn't want to play us.
We figured we needed to get in a conference, or football was going to be in trouble.
The Southwest Junior College Football Conference told us they'd invite us, but we'd be limited to five out-of-staters and no transfers.
I don't care if they're in Guymon or Broken Bow. We can't lose an in-state kid to an out-of-state junior college.
In 1998, we won the conference for the first time our third year in the league. We showed we could win with Oklahoma players. We played for the championship four of the next six years, and won it three out of six.
People said we couldn't win with just five out-of-staters, but when we won that first conference championship, I was crying like a baby because it showed with hard work, commitment and by doing things the right way, we could win.
In the summer of 2004, I got a call from (former OSU coach) Les Miles. They were creating a new position in football operations. I always had the desire to go Division I, but never thought I'd have the opportunity as I got older.
I just felt like if I had the opportunity to work at that level, I needed to go.
Les Miles said, ‘I'm going to be here a long time.' I was kind of worried about that. But four months later, he was gone.
I'd known Mike Gundy for a long time and I felt very confident that I'd be able to stay on with him.
Four or five junior colleges dropped football last year. I don't think we're near on the verge of dropping it, but you don't know what the future may bring. I think a successful program is hard to do away with.
NEO football is still very important to Miami. Since I came back, it's amazing the support we've had at booster clubs, coming to meetings, events we've had. Support has been good financially as well as in person. But we've got to find a way to get more people to come to the games.
It's big for the kids of Oklahoma. We're the only junior college that plays football. We've got 107 kids here in the summer. We'll have about 120 in August. Where would those kids go? I think we provide a real service for Oklahoma, and I think the high school coaches in Oklahoma understand that.
I met my wife here. It got me started going off in the right direction. There's something about NEO tradition that just builds on you.
Everywhere I go wearing something that says NEO, somebody comes up and says they know someone who played here. It's really well known throughout Oklahoma and the United States. I was in Destin Beach, Fla., and was walking on the beach and somebody said, ‘I went to NEO.'