CEDAR RAPIDS — New ownership. New general manager. New name.
There have been plenty of changes to Cedar Rapids’ Indoor Football League franchise over the past few months. But when it came time to hire a coach for the 2019 season, the club went back to its heyday.
The newly named Cedar Rapids River Kings announced the hire of Mark Stoute as their head coach on Tuesday, a move that reunites the seven-year franchise with the only coach who led it to the playoffs.
“The biggest thing was the opportunity to bring back a guy that is not only familiar with the market, but was a proven winner here in Cedar Rapids,” first-year Cedar Rapids General Manager Ryan Eucker told The Gazette. “That’s important for us, certainly, in focusing on the football side of the house, to put ourselves in the best situation possible to win games. We feel like he is a great candidate and certainly able to do that based off his track record and what he showed here in the past.”
Stoute, 61, posted a 42-21 record in four seasons as coach of the Cedar Rapids Titans (2013-16) and qualified for the IFL playoffs in all four years. When the IFL included a wild-card round to its postseason format in 2016, Stoute coached the Titans to the only playoff win in the history of the franchise. In the three seasons without Stoute (2012, 2017-18), Cedar Rapids was a combined 8-36 with three different head coaches.
The franchise was sold to Los Angeles-based investment firm Knighted Ventures and its principal owner Roy Choi in June, then renamed the Cedar Rapids River Kings earlier this week based on fan submissions.
“We had four good years in Cedar Rapids,” Stoute told The Gazette. “Great football out there, great community. It was a team that kind of suffered since we left. We thought from talking with them and what their plans for Cedar Rapids were, we both thought it would be a good thing if I was there, too. Try and put back on the field what we had for the four years that I was there. ... I just thought it was a great opportunity. I truly enjoyed my four years there.”
Stoute left Cedar Rapids after the 2016 season to coach the Jacksonville Sharks, an Arena Football League team that had joined the newly formed National Arena League. After an 8-0 start, Stoute was dismissed over a personnel dispute with management. He returned to the IFL last season with the Nebraska Danger, but was again dismissed midseason after injuries to his quarterback derailed a 4-1 start and sparked a six-game losing streak. Nebraska was 0-4 without Stoute.
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Stoute also will be responsible for scouting, talent evaluation and roster assembly. Stoute is expected to bring three assistant coaches with him to Cedar Rapids, where he lost just five home games in four years during his first stint here.
“You want winners,” Stoute said. “You put a good group of winners together and everything else is football. The ball bounces the right way, you don’t get any strange injuries or whatever, then you’re probably more likely to end up with a winning team. That’s what we’re after. We want to restore the home-field advantage. In the four years that we were there, we didn’t lose too often in Cedar Rapids. Cedar Rapids was a place that not too many teams wanted to come and play.”
Training camp will begin in January. The 2019 IFL season kicks off the following month.
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