Yantis hired by ASU, Bowen takes over ACU football

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                </div>  Donnie Yantis left Paradise Valley High School in north Phoenix, where for 14 years he had been the head coach for that school’s football program, to take on the […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Donnie Yantis left Paradise Valley High School in north Phoenix, where for 14 years he had been the head coach for that school’s football program, to take on the arduous task of starting an NAIA  football program from scratch at nearby Arizona Christian University.

In just two years he built a team that won a conference championship, earned a national ranking, and brought him Region 5 Coach of the Year honors.

And then he quit.

But it’s not likely the ACU football program will have much trouble with the transition to a new head coach.  The small Christian college in northeast Phoenix simply elevated Jeff Bowen to the position.

Bowen was alongside Yantis when the two started the program in time for the 2014 season.  He came in as the assistant head coach and run game coordinator under Yantis.

Both were locals; Bowen had been the head football coach at Westview High School in Avondale for the previous 11 years.  So they were both familiar with the local high school landscape, which was a big help in recruiting in-state talent.  Two-thirds of the first season’s roster was culled from Arizona high school and junior college programs.

Now the Sun Devil program will benefit from Yantis’ in-depth knowledge of the local talent pool and the relationships he has built with Arizona high school football coaches.  He will replace Patrick Suddes in the recruiting coordinator role after Suddes left the ASU program for a similar role at Auburn.

While at PVHS, Yantis became the school’s winningest coach, compiling a 94-70 record and making nine state playoff appearances.  At ACU, he was named the NAIA Independent Conference Coach of the Year in his first season and, after joining the Central State Football League in Year 2, his team won that championship and earned a No. 24 national ranking in just his second season.  The American Football Coaches Association added regional Coach of the Year honors.

Bowen, too, has enjoyed success at the prep level. He guided his Westview teams to back-to-back state finals in 2007 and 2008 and won three section titles in the last five years.

And, like Yantis, he has deep local roots.  A graduate of Arizona State, he has spent nearly 30 years coaching football in the state.  During those three decades he was named Coach of the Year seven times while coaching football and track.

The Firestorm won just two games their first season, and started 2015 with three straight losses before the turnaround began.  They finished the season 6-3 and will return starting quarterback, Gerrit Groenwold, the Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

Bowen has inherited a team that will enter the 2016 season with a full head of steam after closing out 2015 on a six-game winning streak.  And he will likely benefit from a recruiting bump from the attention that comes with a conference title and national ranking.

The challenge now will be taking the hand-off from Yantis and carrying it forward.

(Photo: ACU Athletics)