SIU, Western football share common bonds

SIU, Western football share common bonds

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

More than just a conference rivalry connects SIU and Western Illinois football.

Members of each athletic staff have connections to the other school. 

SIU Athletic Director Tommy Bell has worked for both universities, in the same position. He served as the director of athletics at Western for two years before returning to SIU in 2015. He previously served as director of institutional advancement at SIU from 2001 to 2007. 


Bell said he hears friendly trash-talk from his former coworkers in Macomb. 

“I have no friendly wagers,” Bell said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t get texts from other former faculty members about this game.” 

Connections run even deeper on the coaching staffs.

WIU associate head coach and running backs coach Steve Crutchley is in his third year in Macomb after coaching Saluki running backs from 2008 to 2012. One of the running backs he coached at SIU, Larry Warner, is now running backs coach at SIU.

Warner gained 1,265 yards and scored 10 touchdowns on the ground as a senior in 2008, earning a First-Team All-America honor, with Crutchley as his coach. 

Crutchley said he is excited to reunite with his former coworkers when the Salukis and Leathernecks face off. 

“It’s always fun to see those guys,” said Crutchley, who coached with current SIU coach Dale Lennon, outside linebackers coach Travis Stepps and defensive line coach Austin Flyger at SIU. “But most of the guys there don’t know who I am.”


Leatherneck quarterbacks coach Ted Schlafke was an assistant offensive line coach at SIU in 2009 and 2010. The 2009 Saluki O-line blocked for Crutchley’s running backs, who gained the third-most rushing yards in the nation.

Lennon said the familiarity between the coaching staffs adds intensity to the game.

“We share a lot in common,” Lennon said. “I guarantee this will be one of those games that will go down to the wire, and you have to play your best game because that’s what its going to take to win it.”

Two other Saluki coaches, assistant head coach/co-offensive coordinator Bill O’Boyle and inside linebackers coach Todd Auer, played and coached at Western in the ’80s.

Auer, who coached as a graduate assistant at WIU in 1989 before spending 25 years coaching at Chadron State and Colorado Mesa, said WIU has changed since he’s been gone. 

“I’m sure I’ll run into some people I know,” he said. “There’s a lot of people I played with that are in Chicago and around the state that I haven’t talked to in 20, 25 years being back [in Illinois].”

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @tdonleyDE