The end of an era


It's been a rough week for Bearcat nation. Men’s basketball head coach Ben McCollum took his leap towards his Division I dreams. Although many of us saw this day coming, it’s still heartbreaking to know Coach Mac will be switching out his green ties for blue.

McCollum led Northwest Missouri State’s men’s basketball team to 12 MIAA regular season titles and four national championships. He was named the MIAA coach of the year nine times as well as his induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, which will take place May 19.

I’ve only had the pleasure of knowing Coach Mac’s success for the last five years, but McCollum has been the face of the Northwest basketball program for the last 15 years. Prior to this, he played on the team, leading Northwest to its first Elite Eight appearance. He is undoubtedly the heart of the program.

During my four years at Northwest, I worked at the Northwest Missourian, the independent student-run newspaper. I did just about everything there was to offer during my time there, but outside of my actual job of being a designer, design editor and editor-in-chief, my favorite part was being a sports photographer.

In doing this, I was able to capture some of McCollum’s best accomplishments. In the 2022-23 season, Northwest won the MIAA Tournament — its seventh in the prior eight seasons.

After holding the trophy high with an ear-to-ear smile, surrounded by his team, Coach Mac took what was left of — yet, another — net from the game, placed it around his neck and walked back to the locker room. In doing so, he looked directly into my camera with his infamous “I mean business” look.

During every game, McCollum was as serious as serious can get. To him, it was never just a game. That is, until he is cutting down the net and raising his index finger in the air for Bearcat nation to see. Then his smile is unmatched — just as his statistics as a coach are.

Watching this coach from the media table and the floor will forever be core memories in my life. Each year, after the season ended, the conversations would start up in the newsroom: “Return of the Mac?” This year, the conversation had come to a halt.

Like many of my Northwest friends and acquaintances, I am saddened to see Coach Mac’s move to Des Moines. He has been waiting years for his “can’t-turn-down” opportunity and Drake University was just that.

From Bearcat to Bulldog, I am ecstatic to see what’s in store for the Division I version of Mac. It’s time to queue up my interest in Drake for next season, because my eyes will forever be on McCollum’s coaching.