CEDAR RAPIDS — A flurry of free-agent signings signaled change was afoot for the Cedar Rapids Titans.
Five members of the 2017 Wichita Falls Nighthawks have signed to play for the Titans in 2018, and now they are bringing their coach with them.
Cedar Rapids Co-Owner Chris Kokalis told The Gazette the seventh-year Indoor Football League franchise will name Billy Back head coach on Monday, and will promote former University of Iowa player Marvin McNutt to general manager.
“For us, it’s the best of both worlds,” Kokalis said. “We get to continue to have Marvin as part of the franchise, and move him into an even more exciting role. For us to bring Coach Back onto the coaching staff, there’s just multiple plusses around this situation.”
Back, 38, was the 2016 IFL Coach of the Year in his first season with Wichita Falls, which ended with a playoff loss at Cedar Rapids. In two years with the Nighthawks, Back compiled a 23-10 record. Prior to joining Wichita Falls, Back won three championships with the Cincinnati Commandos of the Continental Indoor Football League (2010-13) and another with the Nashville Venom of the Professional Indoor Football League in 2014.
“Cedar Rapids has always been one of the top teams in the IFL,” Back said. “A destination for players to come play, get film and move on to the next level. That was the main thing for me. I had opportunities to go other places and be the head coach. … I wanted to go to a place that was established.”
Back — an Ohio Native — replaces McNutt, who was 1-15 in his only season as head coach. The McNutt move allows Kokalis to shift more attention to the Cedar Rapids Rampage and Rampage United professional soccer teams, where he will remain general manager. McNutt will now oversee player recruitment and contract administration for the Titans.
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“This is an opportunity for advancement for him to step into a bigger role within the organization,” Kokalis said. “Working with acquiring talent, helping build some alliances with other Big Ten universities throughout the region and obviously bringing to the table his coaching ability, especially on the offensive side of the ball.”
McNutt, 28, will also serve as an assistant coach under Back in some capacity.
“Our plan is to have him work with the receivers and prepare them for the outdoor game,” Back said. “We want to get guys in, get them out to the next level and I think Marvin’s skill set and knowledge that he has gained throughout his career is going to be vital to helping our young receivers that we bring in.”
Back became available once Wichita Falls ownership announced Oct. 16 that the club would not field a team in 2018 due to a legal dispute with its attempted move from the IFL to Champions Indoor Football.
Had Wichita Falls been able to play this season, Kokalis insisted he was content with McNutt returning as head coach. The chance to add a successful, veteran indoor coach and all-IFL players like two-time MVP quarterback Charles McCullum, receiver Jordan Jolly and defensive lineman Walter Thomas — who Back called, “like family, those guys are my brothers” — was too much of an enticement to pass up.
“This was an opportunity for us to make a major upgrade to our program,” Kokalis said.
The Titans will begin training camp in early February.
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