Freed-Hardeman University Head Coach Dale Neal was named the 2017 United States Marine Corps/WBCA National NAIA Coach of the Year. Neal was presented the Pat Summitt Trophy, named for the late legendary University of Tennessee coach and awarded annually to the United States Marine Corps/WBCA National Coach of the Year in each of the WBCA’s six membership divisions.
Neal was selected by his peers after leading his team to an exceptional season. Freed-Hardeman concluded the regular season atop the NAIA Division I Coaches’ Top 25 Poll after Neal paced the team to an undefeated 30-0 finish. Entering the national tournament, the Lady Lions were ranked first in scoring margin and defensive field goal percentage, as well as third in defensive three-point percentage and offensive rebounds.
This marked Neal’s 47th year in coaching. He joined the Lady Lions’ program in 1995 and immediately made history by leading Freed-Hardeman to a school-best 21-9 season. In 1997, the squad clinched its first berth into the NAIA National Tournament. Neal holds the NAIA Division I record for longest tournament run with 21 consecutive trips. He has coached in one national championship game (2014), five “Fab Fours,” three national quarterfinals, and six conference championship games.
“The Marine Corps proudly recognizes Dale Neal for his exemplary leadership and dedication to the young women of the Freed-Hardeman University Lady Lions,” said Lieutenant Colonel Brian Proctor, assistant chief of staff, diversity, Marine Corps recruiting command. “Neal demonstrates the core values upheld by those who hold the title Marine. The Marine Corps is honored to celebrate his fighting spirit, determination and excellence both as coach and mentor of the next generation of leaders.”