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Magazine uncovers SOU's diamond in the rough


Magazine uncovers SOU's diamond in the rough

Pose a question on America's hottest men and you're bound to come up with the usual suspects.

George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, et. al.

— But Southern Oregon University football coach Jeff Olson?

Even he has a tough time finding the connection.

I'm not one who really gets into looks, says the 43-year-old SOU coach. I still wear clothes that are outdated ... it drives my daughter crazy.

Olson's not the type to pay mega dollars for a hair stylist or fashion guru, and the only spa he's probably ever seen has 300-pounders soaking up its relaxing powers.

Fortunately for Olson, the latest hunt for America's hottest focused solely on the football field, and that's where the long-time Raider has truly proven to be a diamond in the rough.

Olson, who has guided SOU to new heights in seven seasons at the helm, is one of 82 college football coaches to earn a spot on American Football Monthly magazine's list of the country's top up-and-coming coaches in its August issue.

The magazine's hot list recognizes coaches from all classifications, with Olson being one of 10 from the NAIA ranks. Former Willamette and current Boise State coach Dan Hawkins leads AFM's list.

Any college looking to run a balanced attack between the run and pass should look to hire this guy, the magazine states in describing Olson.

Since taking over the full-time coaching position in 1996, Olson has been named regional or NAIA Independent coach of the year three times. The Raiders have compiled a 42-26 mark under Olson, entering the 2003 campaign with four straight winning seasons and two straight trips to the quarterfinals of the NAIA Championship Series.

His .618 winning percentage ranks Olson behind only Al Simpson (27-16-1) and Howard Hobson (12-7-1) among SOU football coaches, and his 42 wins puts him third behind Al Akins (71-62-3) and Chuck Mills (48-40).

Not bad for someone who was essentially SOU's backup plan after Ashland High coach Jim Nagel opted to remain in the lower ranks.

Everybody's got an ego, Olson says of the hot nod, but I never thought my name would be up there.

It was neat to see my name, but my first thing was to go down the hall and thank Matt Sayre and Tom Powell for the great job they're doing.

Sayre will be entering his sixth season as SOU's offensive coordinator when the Raiders open camp next week, while Powell is entering his 18th season with SOU and 17th as offensive line coach.

From Day 1, I've wanted to run the football and have a balanced attack, Olson says regarding the magazine's description of him, but they've been the ones making that happen.

They've also been the ones, along with several other SOU staffers, throwing good-natured jabs Olson's way for being deemed hot.

That's probably not going to stop anytime soon, says Olson.

And neither is the Raiders' success, which is where all the accolades stem from anyway.

Anytime there's national recognition for our program in any way, it's a positive, says Olson, who has been with SOU since he was a 20-year-old defensive back. That means we're doing something right. And part of our challenge is maintaining this run, because once we get started, we're not stopping.

Now that's hot.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail