After witnessing the improvement Northwest Missouri State made during Mark Kellogg's first season as head coach, opposing MIAA coaches openly feared what he could do with the Bearcat women's program over time.
They no longer have to.
One promising season into his Northwest tenure, Kellogg announced Thursday he is leaving to become the head women's basketball coach at West Texas A&M.
Kellogg, a native of Richardson, Texas, is returning to the same Division II school where he received his Master's degree and spent two seasons as a men's assistant from 1998-2000.
Most of Kellogg's friends and family still live in Texas and he worked under the current West Texas A&M men's basketball coach, Rick Cooper.
Along with moving closer to home, Kellogg stands to receive a substantial pay increase at West Texas A&M.
According to former Northwest women's basketball coach Gene Steinmeyer, West Texas A&M's last coach—Krista Gerlich—brought in an annual salary of over six-figures not including camp bonuses.
"This might have been the only Division II job I would've left Northwest Missouri for," said Kellogg. "I can't think of another one off the top of my head. This is a very good job with very good people in place. There's not one negative thing I have to say about Northwest."
Kellogg said an agreement with West Texas A&M came together quickly.
After discussing the opening with Cooper and the school's AD, he made a visit to Canyon, Texas last week and a deal was struck earlier this week.
Kellogg will be announced formerly as the school's new coach at a Monday press conference.
A member of the Lonestar Conference, West Texas A&M finished 20-12 last year and lost its former coach to Division I Texas-Arlington.
"It just boiled down to two things for him," said Northwest Missouri State athletic director Mel Tjeerdsma. "Family was number one. And from a financial standpoint, that's probably the best job in Division II. Those are hard things to compete with. You can't compete with family if that's the most important thing for him which I know it is. I wish him the best."
Kellogg informed Tjeerdsma that he was interviewing at West Texas A&M and later of his intent to go there.
He broke the news to his team Wednesday in an emotional face-to-face meeting.
"It was brutal," said Kellogg. "It was emotional for everybody involved. It was a surprise to them. No one expected it including me. I expected to be here considerably longer and build this program up."
Page 2 of 3 - Kellogg, 37, was hired as Northwest's head coach last April in a second search that was needed after initial choice Randy Gipson decided to return to Northeastern State.
Kellogg had spent the previous seven seasons as the head coach at Fort Lewis (Colo.) where he went 173-46.
In his one and only season at Northwest, Kellogg spearheaded one of the biggest turnarounds in the MIAA. A year removed from going 6-22 and finishing last in the conference Northwest posted a 15-13 record and reached the quarterfinal round of the MIAA Tournament.
The Bearcats peaked towards the end of the year, winning four of their last five games. Their last two losses were to nationally-ranked Washburn.
Northwest was competitive in all of its losses except one and upset both Northeastern State and Truman State at home.
The Bearcats were a much more efficient offensive team under Kellogg, finishing at the top of the MIAA in field goal percentage. They also allowed 11 points less per game on defense than the year prior.
Kellogg's second Northwest team was set up to be even better, with the Bearcats returning all five starters and their top six scorers.
Northwest also added three high school players, all of which are locked in for next year having already signed letters of intent.
"We took a huge step last year and there was a lot of excitement going into the summer," said Kellogg. "The girls were so excited to keep moving forward. I thought we changed that culture. I thought we could be a top four, top five team in this league. Of course, I took that into consideration among other things. It weighed heavily."
Kellogg has no regrets about taking the job here instead of waiting it out another year at Fort Lewis (Colo.), saying "I enjoyed every second of this year. It will help me for starting at West Texas A&M and building that program a little bit. I know exactly what I had a year ago. And this program is a heck of a lot better than it was. We've come a long way in just a year."
Kellogg also said the departure of former athletic Wren Baker last month had no impact on his wanting to leave.
"I think really highly of Coach T," said Kellogg. "We had that Austin College connection going for us. I think really highly of him. Now dealing with him, he's been first class ever since."
With Kellogg on the move, Northwest's head coaching position is open for the third time in the last 13 months. The new coach will be the program's third in the last three seasons and fourth if Gipson is included.
Page 3 of 3 - On the job less than three weeks, Tjeerdsma is already underway with a national search for Kellogg's replacement.
This will be Tjeerdsma's first hire in his new role as AD at Northwest.
He plans to work closely with compliance officer Lori Hopkins throughout the process and says no time commitment will be thrust on any candidates in spite of Kellogg's quick exit.
"How could you deny somebody like Mark Kellogg when this came up?" said Tjeerdsma. "You can't tie them to that. If we're paying a coach a million dollars or something, you can put those kind of things in it. We just hope to hire somebody that's really excited about being at Northwest, number one, and they want to build this program. I think we'll get that done. If that's the case, we won't need to worry about that."