Darnall Takes the Helm of Jessup Men’s Basketball Program
After an extensive national search, Jessup University is pleased to announce Mark Darnall has been selected as the next head coach of Jessup Men’s Basketball.
“We had tremendous interest in this position, and Mark rose to the top of that field of candidates because of the quality of his character and his ability as a basketball coach,” said Vice President for Athletics Lance Von Vogt. “Mark’s passion for impacting young men for Christ through the game of basketball was evident from our first conversation, and I believe you will witness him building champions on and off the court.”
Darnall offered his first comments as Jessup’s head coach, stating, “It’s a privilege to be named the next head coach at Jessup University. I want to thank President Jackson and Vice President Von Vogt for the opportunity to lead Jessup into the NCAA Division II era.”
Darnall comes to the Warriors after two seasons with NCAA Division I Eastern Washington University. Eastern Washington won the Big Sky regular season championship this past season with a record of 16-2. Darnall and the Eagles started the season on fire, winning 16 straight Big Sky games, the best start in conference history.
EWU earned a bid to the NIT in 2023, where they took down Washington State before falling to Oklahoma State on the road.
In two seasons with EWU, Darnall helped lead the Eagles to an overall record of 41-27, including a 27-11 run in Big Sky competition. Darnall oversaw the defense during that time, a unit that led the Big Sky in defensive field goal percentage in both seasons with EWU. Darnall also worked heavily on the player development side, guiding Steele Venters to 2022-23 Big Sky MVP honors.
Darnall joins a program that is among the most respected in the NAIA, with Jessup earning national votes in eight consecutive seasons. The Warriors reached the NAIA National Tournament in 2016, 2019, and 2022, winning four tournament games. Jessup also reached the GSAC Championship Game twice in the ’19 and ’22 seasons.
“How coach Von Vogt has built up this program is beyond remarkable,” added Darnall. “I look forward to building upon the foundation he has laid and cannot wait to partner with him and the other campus constituents to continue pushing the boundaries of this program.”
Under Von Vogt, the Warriors went 16-13 last season, a year in which the Warriors featured the fourth-hardest schedule in the nation per the NAIA RPI. The Warriors won a program record 30 games in the 2021-22 campaign, culminating with the deepest postseason run in program history as Jessup reached the NAIA quarterfinals in Kansas City.
The Warriors have featured an NAIA All-American in three of the last five years (Keith Phillips: 2019; Cashemin Williams: 2022, 2023). Jessup has also produced a winning record in eight consecutive seasons.
Darnall’s first season in Rocklin will be a momentous one for the Warriors, as it will be Jessup’s final one as a member of the NAIA. Jessup joined the NAIA in 2004 when they moved to Rocklin from San Jose. The 2023-24 season will also be the tenth and final one as members of the Golden State Athletic Conference. In 10 seasons competing within the GSAC, the Warriors have qualified for the conference tournament each time the event was held (canceled in 2021 due to COVID-19).
What comes next for the Warriors is a jump to NCAA Division II, a level Darnall is already familiar with.
“Mark’s highly successful NCAA Division I and II experience aligns perfectly as we transition into NCAA Division II and the Pac West Conference,” added Von Vogt.
Before joining the staff at EWU, Darnall served as an assistant coach for NCAA Division II program Chico State. During his time in Chico, the Wildcats went 52-29, reaching the national tournament once. Chico State earned a four-seed in the 2020 NCAA Division II Tournament, but the Wildcats’ bid for a national title ended early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic also caused the 2020-21 season to be canceled, a year where Darnall was tabbed to be the lead assistant for head coach Greg Clink. The summer of 2020 saw Darnall add to his resume as Silver Waves Media named him one of the 50 most impactful Division II coaches in America.
Clink offered his thoughts on Darnall, noting, “Coach Darnall is one of the rising stars in collegiate basketball, and I am really excited for him and Jessup University. He’s a dynamic mentor and leader and will make a tremendously positive impact on the student-athletes that he coaches at Jessup.”
On what he offers to the basketball program, Clink added, “Mark is a phenomenal recruiter and will target the perfect fit for the basketball program and University. He is going to bring energy, passion, character, and integrity to the campus. It is a great day for the men’s basketball program, the University, Mark, and his family.”
Chico State was not Darnall’s only Northern California stop. He also spent time on the bench at UC Davis, following coach Jim Les who he had assisted in the 2010 season as a video coordinator for Bradley University. The time Darnall spent with the Aggies saw the team win the Big West championship in 2015, leading to an appearance in the NIT. Darnall served as the Director of Basketball operations with the Aggies, assisting in all aspects of the program.
“Mark was a video guy with me at Bradley, and then I brought him out west when I came out here, so that tells you what I thought about him,” said Les. “Everywhere he’s been, those teams have been successful not only on the floor but in the classroom. He’s been a great example to his student-athletes on how to be an ambassador to their universities. I couldn’t think of a better leader/coach for Jessup to choose for their basketball program.”
Darnall’s coaching journey began in 2009 as an assistant coach for Peoria Christian HS, but coaching is in his blood as his uncle, Dave Darnall, is a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame for his team-leading Eureka College.
As a player, Darnall was named to the NABC Honors Court at Eureka College in Illinois. Darnall led the Red Devils in shooting with a 41.4 percent clip from three.
On his vision for the Jessup program, Darnall stated, “Warrior basketball is going to be tough, smart, and unselfish on both ends of the floor. We will continue to bring in student-athletes who aspire to be their best not only on the floor but in the classroom and in their growth as young men. This program will align with the mission to create servant leaders. With all that is happening on this beautiful new campus, there is no better time than right now to be a Warrior.”
Darnall earned his bachelor’s and master’s in sports management from Illinois State University. He and his wife, Meagan, have a two-year-old son, Nash.