Mike Santiago enters his sixth season as the head coach of the Lumberjacks with a clearly defined set of goals for his team - win the Southland Conference and qualify for NCAA I-AA playoffs. Taking care of the former will assure the latter.
- Completed 5th season at Stephen F. Austin
- Overall Record: 33-22
- Conference Record: 20-11
- Record At Homer Bryce: 17-8
- Southland Conference Titles: One
SFA enters the 2004 season having posted five straight winning seasons, including last year's 7-4 campaign. Santiago led the 'Jacks to a 4-1 conference mark a year ago, but fell short of making the field of 16 for the postseason playoffs. With a winning record in 2004, the 'Jacks will set a mark never before accomplished by the Lumberjack football program. SFA can post its sixth straight winning season with a succesful year on the field.
Named the school's 16th head coach on December 15, 1998, Santiago accomplished an immediate goal in his first season as the Lumberjacks' head coach, winning a share of the Southland Football League title in 1999.
Santiago has said that the stops he made prior to arriving on the SFA campus prepared him for the job.
"This is the opportunity for which I have been preparing my whole life. After several stops as an assistant coach, after a year as a scout for the Cleveland Browns, after being a part of some very successful programs, now I'm ready for this opportunity and this challenge."
"We will play one game at a time. We will have a football team that expects to win every time we take the field. To build a championship football program takes everyone pulling in the same direction. That goes all the way from the athletes and coaches to the students, the staff and faculty, and to the members of the community. We need the support of everyone in the community to put together a winner."
During the 1999 season, Santiago and his coaching staff turned around a program that had gone 3-8 the previous campaign. In posting an 8-3 overall record, the Lumberjacks also went 6-1 in the Southland Football League, claiming a share of the SFL title for the first time since the 1989 season. In his first year, Santiago was able to do something that only three other coaches had been able to do in the previous 73 years of SFA football, win a conference title.
The Lumberjacks also led the Southland Football League in scoring and rushing offense. His quarterback, Wes Pate also earned All-Southland Football League honors. The last four quarterbacks that Santiago has coached have all earned All-SFL honors. Pate was named the 2001 Southland Football League Offensive Player of the Year following the `Jacks 6-5 campaign in which he posted the second highest single season passing total in SFA history.
In his first two seasons, Santiago posted a record of 14 wins and eight losses. The 14 wins are the most by any SFA coach in his first two years at the university. Now entering his sixth season at SFA, Santiago has a career record of 33 wins and 22 losses. The 33 wins places him fifth on the all-time wins list in SFA history. Only Santiago and Jim Hess have posted 20 or more wins in their first three seasons as the head man with the Lumberjack program. His teams have posted five straight winning seasons, and with a winning record this year will set a new standard at SFA for consecutive winning seasons.
The Arizona native is no stranger to winning. He came to SFA having spent nine seasons as the offensive coordinator at McNeese State University. During that nine-year time period, the Cowboys claimed four Southland Football League titles and appeared in the national championship game following the 1997 season. McNeese State lost that game to Youngstown State 10-9.
That loss also leaves Santiago with a hunger he hopes to fill. As much as the student-athletes and staff, Santiago also wishes to fulfill a desire of winning a championship and says that all the pieces are in place to continue to improve the Lumberjack football program.
Santiago is a 1977 graduate of Southern Utah State University. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Lamar University from 1977-81. Santiago has also made stops as an assistant coach at North Carolina State, Northern Arizona, Western Michigan and Southwest Texas. In 1984, he served as a personnel scout for the Cleveland Browns.
His teams at McNeese State led the Southland Football League in passing offense in 1996, and scoring offense in both 1997 and 1998. Under his direction, the last three quarterbacks at McNeese State all earned All-Southland Football League honors. In 1996 and 1997, McNeese State had the league's leading passer in Tim Leger and Blake Prejean. Leger, Prejean and former McNeese State quarterback Kerry Joseph all set school passing records under Santiago's tutelage.
In fact, quarterbacks under Santiago's guidance have earned Southland Conference honors in 10 of the last 12 seasons. During that span, two freshman (Eric Acheson, 1991 and Kerry Joseph, 1992) have earned Freshman of the Year honors, with Joseph going on to SLC Player of the Year honors in 1995. Wes Pate added Offensive Player of the Year honors under Santiago's guidance in 2001.
Michael Williams was first team All-Southland Conference in 2003 after leading the 'Jacks to a 4-1 record in the SLC race and a 5-1 record as a starter.
While Santiago's teams have enjoyed great success on the field, he also stresses success in the classroom. "When a student-athlete comes to Stephen F. Austin, we will do everything we can to make sure that he has every opportunity to leave here with a ring on one hand, and a diploma in the other. We will work to be winners on the field and in the classroom."
Away from the football field, Santiago enjoys spending time with his wife Rochelle, and their two sons, Dallas, 19, a freshman on the SFA football team, and Tyler, 14. Santiago also enjoys golf and watching his sons participate in youth sports.