The 2018 Northwest Conference Coach of the Year, Rod Sandberg is in his sixth season as Whitworth University's head foortball coach in 2019. Sandberg has guided the Pirates to a 41-11 record over his first five years, including two appearances in the NCAA Division III playoffs (2015 and 2018). He coached the Pirates to only the fourth unbeaten regular season in school history (9-0) in 2018 and only the second NCAA playoff victory (48-6 over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps). The Bucs' 15-game winning streak, counting the final five games of 2017 and the first ten of 2018, is the second-longest in school history. Whitworth was 6-4 in 2014, the best first-year record for a Pirate football coach since Rod Enos led the team to a 6-3 mark in 1965.
The 35 victories from 2015-2018 are the most in any four-year stretch in school history.
Sandberg's defense led all of NCAA Division III in tackles for loss per game in 2018, setting a school record with 111. Senior DE Chad Wilburg was chosen as the Co-NWC Defensive Player of the Year, leading a contingent of 17 players to garner All-Northwest Conference recognition. Cornerback Colten Chelin was selected as the NWC's Freshman of the Year.
The Pirates set five offensive team records and nine individual offensive records in 2016. Quarterback Ian Kolste led all of NCAA Division III in pass completions per game, passing yards and passing yards per games. Whitworth achieved at least nine victories in one season for only the fifth time in school history in 2015, a year in which the Pirates ranked among the top five in all of NCAA Division III in turnover margin and in sacks per game.
Highlights from the 2014 season included two NCAA Division III records by QB Bryan Peterson in a win at La Verne, a 61-45 Homecoming victory over previously unbeaten Willamette and a 62-30 victory over Puget Sound that included seven interceptions.
Sandberg served as Wheaton College (Ill.) defensive coordinator 11 years, from 2003 through 2013, and he had been on the Thunder’s staff as the linebackers’ coach since 1995 (19 seasons). In addition he served as the team’s recruiting coordinator. Sandberg coached six different players to eight NCAA Division III All-America honors and 49 All-Conference players during his tenure at Wheaton.
Wheaton made the NCAA Division III playoffs five times during Sandberg’s tenure as defensive coordinator. The team never lost a first round playoff game and reached the Division III semifinals in 2008 and quarterfinals in 2003.
Sandberg’s 2007 and 2013 squads led the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, regarded as one of the strongest football leagues at the Division III level, in scoring defense. The Thunder were second in the league in scoring defense five other times.
As the Wheaton defensive coordinator, Sandberg helped develop Andy Studebaker (DL, 2006), Pete Ittersagen (DB, 2007 and 2008) and Brandon Dykstra (DL 2012) to All-American honors. Studebaker is in his sixth season in the NFL, currently with the Indianapolis Colts. As the linebacker coach, Sandberg guided Chip Parrish (1995-96), J.D. Leman (2000) and Justin Knapp (2002) to All-America honors.
Sandberg graduated from Wheaton in 1991, where he majored in Psychology and participated in varsity football and track and field. He was a football team captain in 1990 and a two-time All-CCIW honoree.
Following graduation, Sandberg went into football coaching as an assistant at Aurora University (1991) and then as an assistant at Georgetown College (Ky.) in 1993-94.
Coach Sandberg and his wife Amy have two sons, Derek and Toby.