By Derek Harper
We recently chatted with Iowa Barnstormers Head Coach Dixie Wooten about the success the team has had since he was hired as Head Coach prior to the start of the 2017 IFL season. The Barnstormers left the AFL after the 2014 season and played their first IFL season in 2015 where they 6-8, followed by a 4-12 season in 2016. Through their first two IFL seasons they were a combined 10-20.
In 2017 the team hired Dixie Wooten as Head Coach, who was coming off a successful season as the Offensive Coordinator of the IFL's Cedar Rapids Titans. The Titans went 12-4 losing in the United Conference Championship to the Sioux Falls Storm with Wooten as OC. In his first season as head coach of the Barnstormers, Wooten lead the team to a 13-3 record losing their United Conference Semifinal matchup to the Sioux Falls Storm.
Wooten credits the team's turnaround to the great coaching staff he hired. Wooten hired Marcus Coleman as Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach and Malcolm Nelson as Defensive Line Coach and Special Teams Coordinator. This season he brought on Hurtis Chinn as Wide Receivers Coach.
Wooten stated they make their players buy into their system and their goals. He said his coaching staff makes sure players understand what opposing teams want to do to them. It's no secret he said that they want to work out every team they play.
When asked about their mindset for the rest of the season he said "It's a championship mindset around here. No matter who we play, we play to the standard of a champion. We study like a champion, we practice like champions, and we work hard like champions." He stated that right now they're in what he called the regular season playoffs to get home field advantage throughout the playoffs and that every game mattered.
To wrap up, we asked what he saw as the future for the IFL, specifically Iowa's future and if they had talked about joining a different league such as the NAL. He replied no and that the IFL is a strong league and will be even stronger next year. He used this week's game in Arizona as an example with how it drew 18,000 spectators with two great teams in a game that was an instant classic.
The IFL has always been one of the premier indoor leagues, but it's had it's weaknesses. Last off-season saw a legal battle between the CIF and IFL with breach of contract being the issue the case centered on. With six teams this season, hearing how the league is great and will be even greater next season makes you wonder if expansion is on the way in 2019 and what markets might be targeted.
The Idaho Horsemen are a team to keep your eye on as they're yet to make their decision on whether they'll be joining the CIF or IFL. There are other markets like Tucson and San Jose that've had rumors fly since last season. You can guarantee once the playoffs wrap up and a United Bowl Champion is crowned you'll be hearing quite a bit about changes within the IFL, expansion being most likely the hottest topic on the table.