With one succinct message, Chris Creighton sets the tone for the Drake football program.
"My vision for the program has always been to make playing football at Drake one of the most incredible experiences of our players' lives."
That experience transcends the football field and the classroom, extending to every aspect of his student-athletes' lives. In his career, Creighton has taken his teams on three overseas trips, including Drake's May 2011 trip to Tanzania, and ventures to Austria and Panama while head coach at Division III Wabash College.
His commitment and drive for excellence on the field is just as strong on the field as off. In 2012, he led the Bulldogs to their second straight Pioneer Football League title and the sixth PFL championship in league history with an 8-3 record and a 7-1 mark in league play. The title run was Creighton’s eight conference title in his 16-year head coaching career.
That 8-3 mark, which included two losses to nationally ranked opponents, brought Creighton’s record to 38-17 at Drake and 133-41 in his 16 seasons on the collegiate sidelines. The 2012 team was led by one of his star pupils in record-setting quarterback Mike Piatkowski. The signal caller set nearly every single-season and career passing mark under Creighton’s tutelage.
Seventeen Bulldogs earned all-PFL honors following the 2012 championship and six were named to the PFL All-Academic Team including three student-athletes that also garnered CapitalOne/CoSIDA Academic All-District honors. A school-record 63 Bulldogs were also named to the PFL Academic Honor Roll.
Entering the 2013 season, Drake has won 36 of its last 49 games dating back to the midpoint of Creighton’s first season with the Bulldogs in 2008.
A school record 11-game home winning streak helped Creighton make Drake Stadium one of the toughest venues in the nation with the Bulldogs going an astonishing 26-4 at home in his career at Drake including an 18-2 record in home PFL games.
In addition to back-to-back conference titles, his teams have posted four consecutive top three finishes in the PFL, and his 38 wins are the most by a Drake head coach in the first five seasons on the job.
In 2011, his fourth Bulldogs' team won nine games and tied for the Pioneer Football League title with a 7-1 conference record. It was Drake's fifth PFL crown and first since 2004.
The Bulldogs' head coach was recognized for the job he did by being named one of 20 finalists for the 2011 Eddie Robinson FCS Coach of the Year Award. A league-leading 18 Bulldogs received All-PFL honors and a PFL-best nine Drake student-athletes were named Academic All-PFL. In addition, a then school-record 61 Bulldogs were named to the PFL Academic Honor Roll for achieving a grade-point average of 3.0 or above.
The energetic, but veteran coach was named a winner of the Giant Steps Award presented by the National Consortium for Academics and Sports as part of National Student-Athlete Day on April 6, 2011. Creighton, awarded for the Coaching category, was one of just five 2011 winners of the Giant Steps Award, given annually to individuals who use sport to positively affect social change, actualizing the mission of the NCAS. The awards honor student-athletes, athletic administrators, civic leaders, coaches, parents, organizations, and other individuals who demonstrate an outstanding ability to manage life on and off the field, and who demonstrate a commitment to the betterment of society.
Drake's two-week experience in Africa in 2011 for the inaugural Global Kilimanjaro Bowl included significant service projects in orphanages and schools, the ascension of 19,340-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro and a victory over a Mexican collegiate all-star team in the Kili Bowl-the first game of American football played on African soil.
With that trip setting the foundation for the Bulldogs' 2011 season the team, under Creighton's guidance, adopted the theme "Tupande Kileleni," a Swahili term that translates to "Let's climb to the summit." The summit, for Drake, became the quest to perform to its full potential and symbolized the climb to the top of the Pioneer Football League standings, which it achieved.
The 2010 Bulldogs featured a defense that ranked sixth in the nation among FCS schools (2nd PFL) in rush defense (94.2), eighth (3rd PFL) in sacks (3.0) and 18th (2nd PFL) in tackles for loss (7.4). In addition, the special teams excelled in punt coverage (5th NCAA FCS/1st PFL, 3.4), kickoff coverage (5th NCAA/1st PFL, 16.1) and punt return average (15th NCAA/1st PFL; 13.53).
In 2009, picked to finish sixth in the preseason coaches' poll, Creighton guided Drake to an 8-3 record, including a 6-2 third-place finish in the Pioneer Football League. Drake matched its best nine-game start in history (8-1) in 2009, while riding a six-game mid-season winning streak to bring Creighton's two-year record at the school to 14-8.
Creighton's first Drake club in 2008 went 6-5 and finished in a tie for fourth in the PFL.
"Coach Creighton is a proven winner, a man of strong character, and has a vision that will move Drake football to the next level," said Drake athletic director Sandy Hatfield Clubb at the time of his hire.
"I am absolutely thrilled about the opportunity to lead the Drake University football program," said Creighton. "I am very attracted to Drake's sense of family, its proud tradition, and the desire of both the team and the administration to become our absolute best."
Creighton served as head coach at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., from 2001-07 where he constructed a 63-15 record (.808) with his teams winning four North Coast Athletic Conference championships, while competing in three NCAA Division III playoffs.
During his last three years at Wabash, Creighton led the Little Giants to a 30-5 record (.857) including three straight league championships and appearances in the 2005 and 2007 NCAA Division III playoffs.
Wabash posted a 11-2 record in 2007, competing in the NCAA Division III playoffs while being ranked No. 8 in the final NCAA Division III coaches poll. Wabash went 12-1 in 2002 and 11-1 in 2005, capping both seasons with appearances in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
As offensive coordinator at Wabash, Creighton's teams averaged 35 points per game with the multiple offense producing the school's all-time leading rusher and passer. Three starting quarterbacks received All-America honors.
Under Creighton, Wabash won conference championships in 2002, '05, '06 and '07. He coached 83 all-conference players, including seven who earned conference player of the year honors, along with 13 All-Americans. Creighton was named North Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2002, '05 and '07, as well as the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1997.
The Seattle, Wash., native produced one of the greatest single season turnarounds in NAIA history during his first year at Ottawa in 1997. Inheriting a team that posted a record of 1-8 the previous season, Creighton guided his club to a 9-2 finish en route to capturing its first Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference title since 1972. He also led Ottawa to a conference championship in 2000 along with appearances in the NAIA playoffs in '97 and 2000.
Creighton served as offensive coordinator at Concordia (Ill.) from 1991-92 and Manchester (Ind.) from 1993-96 before becoming head coach at Ottawa.
Six former assistants who worked under Creighton have gone on to become collegiate coordinators and/or head coaches: Steve Ryan (Ottawa) has been head coach at Morningside College for 10 years; Brian Ward (Wabash, Drake) was head coach at McPherson College (2006-08) and is now defensive coordinator at Western Illinois; Neal Neathery (Ottawa, Wabash, Drake) is defensive coordinator at Texas-San Antonio; Matt Jeter (Drake) is defensive coordinator at Central Missouri and Wendell Smith (Ottawa) is special teams coordinator at Ottawa, while Tom Allen (Wabash, Drake) is now special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at Ole Miss.
As an All-America quarterback, Creighton led Kenyon (Ohio) College to its only North Coast Athletic Conference title in 1989 and was named conference player of the year after setting single-season conference records for passing yardage (2,843) and touchdowns (29). He was inducted into the Kenyon College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.
Creighton earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College in 1991 and a master's degree from Concordia (Ill.) University in 1993.
Chris and his wife, Heather, have two daughters, Hallie (9) and Kate (7) and a son Luke (6).
YEAR-BY-YEAR HEAD COACHING RECORD:
CAREER RECORD: 133-41 (.764 winning percentage)