Back in 1993, Rion Rhoades made a decision to play college football at Hutchinson Community College for then-Blue Dragon head coach Sam Pittman.
Rhoades, on Wednesday, announced his resignation as Hutchinson's head football coach to take an assistant position at the University of Arkansas.
The Razorbacks' new head coach? Sam Pittman.
Playing for Pittman, Rhoades had a tremendous two-year playing career with the Blue Dragons. Rhoades was part of the early-90s turnaround of Blue Dragon football under Pittman and became the program's third all-time leading tackler with 268 career stops.
Pittman's tutelage was one of the factors that pushed Rhoades into coaching and ultimately to the Blue Dragon sideline, where he has spent the last 13 seasons.
Rhoades was named the Blue Dragons' 17th head coach on December 12, 2006. Over his 13 seasons, which is the third-longest coaching tenure in Blue Dragon football history, Rhoades produced a record of 99-50. Previous to Hutchinson, Rhoades spent one season at Fort Scott Community College where he had a 7-5 record, turning the Greyhound program around.
Rhoades' 99 coaching wins at Hutchinson rank second most in Blue Dragon history, only behind Charles Sesher's 115 wins. Rhoades' 106 Jayhawk Conference wins are fourth all-time in KJCCC football history.
"Hutchinson Community College and Blue Dragon Football have been blessed to have had Rion Rhoades lead the charge for the past 13 years," said Josh Gooch, Blue Dragon Athletic Director on Wednesday. "The football program has seen unprecedented success during his tenure."
Among the many accomplishments for Rhoades with the Blue Dragons:
+ He led Hutch to first its NJCAA No. 1 ranking in team history in 2019;
+ Was the 2014 Jayhawk Conference Coach of the Year (he was also KJCCC Coach of the Year in 2006 at Fort Scott);
+ There were seven Jayhawk Conference Offensive or Defensive Players of the Year under Rhoades;
+ HutchCC had 200 All-Conference selections under Rhoades, including 62 first-team selections;
+ Rhoades coached 26 NJCAA All-Americans, including 11 first-team All-Americans;
+ Eugene Kinlaw was the 2008 NJCAA National Defensive Player of the Year;
+ Rhoades had 16 former players selected in NFL Draft or sign UDFA contracts;
+ Cordarrelle Patterson (2013) became first Blue Dragon 1st-Round Draft pick;
+ Rhoades placed 239 players into four-year programs (2019 sophomores not counted in that total).
"We wish Coach Rhoades good luck on the next step of his career," Hutchinson Community College President Dr. Carter File said. "We thank Coach Rhoades for all of his contributions to our student-athletes in his 13 years with our football program."
When Rhoades took over the Blue Dragon program, it was coming off the first winless season in program history in 2006. Hutch dropped the first two games of 2007 before snapping a 13-game winning streak with a 35-13 win over Highland on September 8, 2007.
Rhoades' first team finished 2-7, but a 13-9 come-from-behind victory in the final game of 2007 with a depleted roster was a sign of the future of Blue Dragon football under Rhoades.
The Blue Dragons started the 2008 season 2-3, but a 45-13 win over Coffeyville started a five-game winning streak that got the Dragons to the Region VI Playoff championship game for the first time in 13 seasons. The 2008 Dragons finished 7-4 and ranked No. 19 in the final NJCAA Rankings.
From that point, success was the norm for Blue Dragon football. From 2008 to 2013, the Blue Dragons reeled off six-straight winning seasons and five-straight Salt City Bowl wins.
Then in 2014, Rhoades broke through with the biggest win of his career to that point, a 35-26 win over Butler. That was the key victory in an undefeated Jayhawk Conference championship season where the Blue Dragons finished 11-1 overall and No. 4 in the final NJCAA rankings.
From 2015 to 2017, the Blue Dragons were 17-17. The Blue Dragons went 9-3 in 2018 and finished No. 8 in the final rankings, setting up a memorable 2019.
Playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, the 2019 Blue Dragons went 10-2, finishing with a 45-23 win over No. 19 Monroe College in the Salt City Bowl. Hutchinson was 5-2 against ranked competition, defeating No. 2 (Iowa Western and Butler) twice. Hutchinson spent five weeks as the No. 1 team in the NJCAA Rankings.
"Coach Rhoades brought great leadership and generated excitement within the entire Hutchinson community," Gooch said. "He has done so much for me both professionally and personally. We are extremely happy for him and his family and know he will be a tremendous success as his coaching career continues."
No timetable has been set on naming a replacement.