Head Coach Bill Keopple
Bill Keopple enters into his 10th season as the head football coach at Southern Arkansas. In his time at SAU, Keopple has coached 54 all-conference players, 27 all-academic honorees, 15 all-region selections, and eight All-Americans.
In terms of record, Keopple has amassed a 49-46 overall record with 42 of those wins coming over the last six seasons. In that time, Keopple has guided the Mulerider football program to a .500 winning percentage or better each year and has earned a pair of post-season bowl bids with the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl in 2012 and the Live United Bowl in 2016. The Heart of Texas Bowl was SAU’s first post-season appearance since 2003.
Additionally, in those last six years, the Muleriders have a .646 winning percentage and are an impressive 24-3 (.889) at home.
Last season, SAU went 7-4 overall, but were an unblemished 5-0 at home. It was the third time in the last four years that Keopple’s Muleriders have been unbeaten inside the confines of Wilkins Stadium at Rip Powell Field. While the overall record was a touch below the 2016 campaign that saw SAU go 9-3, the 2017 Muleriders remained one of the top overall offenses in the GAC and NCAA Division II.
That year, SAU led the league and ranked 21st in DII in Total Offense at 458.4 yards per game. It was the fourth-straight season that the Muleriders led the GAC in Total Offense. Additionally, it was fourth-consecutive season in which SAU fielded a Top-25 offense in DII.
Over the last six years under Keopple, offense has certainly been a strength of the program as the Muleriders have averaged 472.8 yards of total offense with 298.5 of the yards coming through the air and 174.3 yards coming on the ground.
Along with the yardage gained, Keopple’s offense has been able to put points on the board at a high rate. Last year, the Muleriders averaged 36.4 points per game; making it six-straight years in which the team would score at least 35.0 points per game. Over that time, the Muleriders have averaged 36.4 points per game.
While Keopple’s high-powered offenses over the past six seasons have taken many of the headlines, his defensive unit has enjoyed success in its own right as well in his time at SAU.
This past year, the defensive side of the ball continued to develop into a strength as it ranked second in the GAC in Total Defense for the second-straight year. In 2016, the Mulerider defense improved significantly from the 2015 season as SAU ranked in the top-five in all nine major defensive stat categories in the GAC after only ranking that high in one the year previous.
In 2012, Keopple’s defense led the GAC and ranked sixth nationally in rushing defense, allowing just 91.4 yards per game. In 2013, the Muleriders’ defense would force 26 turnovers, ranking them 44th in DII. Sixteen (16) of those forced turnovers came via the interception as SAU ranked 33rd nationally in passes intercepted on defense.
Keopple’s recent success at SAU comes as no surprise as his previous coaching experience includes Division I assistant coaching stints at Arkansas, Boise State, and Central Arkansas. In addition to his extensive previous collegiate coaching experience, Keopple spent the six seasons prior to coming to SAU as the head coach at Arkansas High in Texarkana.
While at Arkansas High, Keopple led his teams to two consecutive state championships 2006 and 2007. Overall, Keopple amassed a 44-26-1 record during his six seasons. In 2006, Keopple was honored as the 6A State Farm Coach of the Year. That same year, he was also named as the 6A Outstanding Coach by the National Football Foundation, a feat he would repeat in 2007. Keopple was also selected to serve on the high school football All-Star coaching staffs in 2004 and 2007.
Before taking over the reins at Texarkana, Keopple spent the 2002 season at the University of Tulsa on former Arkansas defensive coordinator Keith Burns’ staff. He spent that season coaching the defensive line and serving as recruiting coordinator for the Hurricanes.
Keopple served as an assistant under Houston Nutt at Arkansas in 1998 and 1999 and was with Nutt at Boise State in 1997, coaching the defensive line at both schools. The Razorbacks were 1998 SEC Western Division champions and finished 9-3, playing Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. The 1999 Razorbacks went 8-4 and defeated Texas in the Cotton Bowl, finishing the season 12th in rushing defense and 17th in total defense.
Keopple went to Boise State from Newport High School where he was head coach and athletic director in 1996. He guided the Greyhounds to the state playoffs with an 8-3 record, giving him an overall mark of 52-29-1 in his seven years as a head coach on the high school level.
Graduating with a B.S.E. in 1982 and an M.S.E. in 1986 from Central Arkansas, Keopple began his coaching career there in 1982 as a graduate assistant working with the offensive line. He spent 14 years with the Bears, tutoring the offensive line the entire time and serving as offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator from 1990-95. During his tenure at UCA, the Bears won three NAIA national championships and 10 consecutive conference championships from 1983-92 in the former Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference (AIC).
A native of Little Rock Arkansas, Keopple is the son of Hall of Fame high school coach C.W. Keopple. A 1976 graduate of Parkview High School, he played on the 1974 and 1976 state championship teams and was an all-state and super team selection his senior season.
During his playing days at Central Arkansas, Keopple was a member of two conference championship teams and was an honorable mention selection on both the All-NAIA District 17 and All-AIC teams. His senior season he was selected team captain by his teammates, and the Bears were the regular season No. 1 team in the country with an undefeated record, advancing to the national playoffs.
Keopple has been a part of 18 championship teams as a player and coach. He is married to the former Marsha Lee Belew from Beebe and has two adult children.