Former Butler football coach Troy Morrell, who led the Grizzlies to three national championships and 12 conference championships in 15 seasons, has been inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
The induction ceremony was held Sunday, Oct. 4 at the Wichita Boathouse. Morrell is one of 11 new members of the Hall of Fame, which now has 248 members in its 54th year of operation.
"I'm honored to be a part of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame," Morrell said. "This is a very humbling experience for me, being from the state of Kansas the majority of my life, to stand up here and know that I get to be a part of this hall of fame as well.
"I'm blessed to have had many great players and assistant coaches. Without them, this night wouldn't happen," Morrell said.
More than two dozen Morrell supporters were on hand for the ceremony, including his family and Butler administrators and donors.
Morrell noted his roots, from growing up in the small town of Atwood and later moving to Hutchinson and attending high school in Buhler.
Morrell attended Butler from 1989-1991, playing for the 1989 and 1990 Butler football teams. After graduating from Fort Hays State University, he returned to Butler as an assistant coach in 1996. Morrell said it wasn't an easy career choice, but that his wife, Jessica, was supportive.
"She told me I needed to follow my heart, in what I wanted to do as far as a career," Morrell said. "I bounced around with all kinds of different things. I thought I was going to be a doctor or a dentist. I knew I wanted to help people and I knew I loved the game of football, so that's what got me into coaching.
"I'm thankful that my wife could make the ends meet and allow me to chase my passion as a coach," Morrell said.
After two years of working full-time on a part-time coaching salary, Morrell was promoted to be the offensive coordinator, helping Butler win back-to-back national championships in 1998 and 1999.
After James Shibest left Butler to take a job at the University of Arkansas, Morrell was named head coach in February 2000. During his speech, Morrell thanked then-Butler athletic director Curtis Hammeke and former president Dr. Jackie Vietti for hiring him.
"I was 28 years old, obviously had never been a head coach, but they said 'we think you can do this,'" Morrell said. "I had a lot of doubts, but I really, honestly thank you from the bottom of my heart for that opportunity, because it was a great run and a lot of fun. Thanks for your trust and belief and support."
His first team went 10-2, finishing second in the Jayhawk Conference. In 2001, Butler started an unprecedented run of success, winning eight consecutive Jayhawk Conference championships. Morrell would also guide Butler to four straight titles from 2010-2013, giving the Grizzlies 12 titles in 13 years.
Butler played in seven national championship games, winning three of them, in 2003, 2007 and 2008.
Along the way, Morrell compiled a record of 154-22, a winning percentage of .880, the highest in NJCAA history. He coached 70 All-Americans and had more than 160 student-athletes who transferred to NCAA Division I institutions after graduating from Butler.
He was a five-time Jayhawk Conference Coach of the Year and a two-time NJCAA Coach of the Year. During the 2003 national championship season, Morrell was named coach of the year by the NJCAA, American Community College Football Coaches Association, American Football Monthly Magazine and the JUCO Football Network.
In his last season at Butler, the team was awarded the equivalent of an academic national championship, as his team had the highest grade point average of all football programs in the NJCAA.
Morrell, who was never one to accept credit for those accomplishments on his own, displayed the same gratitude during his induction speech.
He thanked his assistant coaches, including current Butler head coach Tim Schaffner and current Coffeyville head coach Aaron Flores among others. He had special mention for longtime defensive line coach Steve Braet, who has been at Butler for more than 30 years and has been on the coaching staff of all six national championship seasons (1981, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2008). He was the assistant coach who recruited Morrell to Butler as a player.
"He is the heart and soul of Butler," Morrell said. "He was a tremendous mentor for me. He gave me a lot of advice and support over the years.
Morrell mentioned current president Dr. Kim Krull, vice-president Bill Rinkenbaugh and athletic director Todd Carter, who was the athletic trainer at Butler when Morrell was a student-athlete and assistant coach. Morrell also thanked long-time donor Dr. Larry Abraham, who helped calm Morrell before his first public speech as a head coach in 2000.
While not able to publicly thank all by name, Morrell said the Butler family, from the administration to the faculty to the staff, was amazing during his time in El Dorado.
"It's a great home," Morrell said. "We were able to have a lot of success there; a lot of wins. The support system we had – the academic support system and everyone from trainers to filmers to equipment staff – was tremendous."
Two things Morrell said he was most proud of was the evolution of Butler's athletic facilities. Butler now plays in BG Products Veterans Sports Complex, which Morrell says is the best stadium in junior college football. Also, the football staff now works in a dedicated office/locker room complex complete with an indoor training facility and weight room.
"We were able to change our facilities tremendously," Morrell said. "That speaks a lot about the support we have there. That's something I took a lot of pride in. Seeing all of that happen and having a part in it is very special."
Morrell also thanked the people in the community of El Dorado, saying that he made lifelong friends in the town and enjoyed raising his family there.
Lastly, Morrell thanked the players.
"None of the coaches made the blocks or the catches or the runs or the throws; it was the players out there doing it. I just thank each and every one of those guys for their belief and their trust in me and our coaching staff and Butler, and having the courage to come to Butler to play," Morrell said.
Morrell retired from coaching after the 2014 season and now works in private business. He lives in Hutchinson with his wife, Jessica, and children, Dylan and Madelyn.
What they are saying:
Congrats coach Troy Morrell on your induction into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame! Well deserved, you changed a lot of young men's lives!
-Former player Bruce Reves
Congrats to Coach Troy Morrell for being inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. He's a great coach, leader, husband, father and friend.
-Butler cross country and track and field coach Ryan Turner
Troy was a hard worker and a dedicated player. His small town values and dedication helped Troy become an excellent coach for Butler County. He is so deserving of every honor awarded him.
-Coach Dan and Sally Lankas