Southern Utah Thunderbirds football
2024 Southern Utah Thunderbirds football team
First season1963
Athletic directorDoug Knuth
Head coachDeLane Fitzgerald
1st season, 5–6 (.455)
StadiumEccles Coliseum
(capacity: 8,500)
Year built1967
Field surfaceHellas Matrix Turf
(since 2012)
LocationCedar City, Utah
ConferenceUnited Athletic Conference
Past conferencesIndependent (1963–1968)
Rocky Mountain (1969–1985)
Western Football (1986–1992)
American West (1993–1995)
Independent (1996–2003)
Great West (2004–2011)
Big Sky Conference (2012–2021)
Western Athletic Conference (2022)
All-time record237–299–10 (.443)
Conference titles4 (1993, 2010, 2015, 2017)
Division titles1 (1970)
RivalriesNorthern Arizona(rivalry)
Weber State (rivalry)
Utah Tech (rivalry)
ColorsScarlet and white[1]

The Southern Utah Thunderbirds football (also referred to as the SUU Thunderbirds) program is a college football team that represents Southern Utah University (SUU). With a history dating back to 1963, SUU currently competes in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision[2] as a member of the United Athletic Conference.

The Thunderbirds play their home games on campus at Eccles Coliseum in Cedar City, Utah, and have been led by head coach DeLane Fitzgerald since 2021.[3]


Southern Utah fielded its inaugural team in 1963 with Bruce Osborne as head coach,[4] remained an NAIA independent through 1968, then became a charter member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC).[5] The Thunderbirds were members of the RMAC from 1969 to 1985, with an overall record of 86–73–3 (.540) during that time.[4] After 1985, Southern Utah moved to NCAA Division II and joined the Western Football Conference (WFC).[6] While in the WFC from 1986 to 1992, the Thunderbirds' overall record was 41–34–1 (.546).[4]

In 1993, Southern Utah moved up to Division I-AA and joined the American West Conference (AWC) as a charter member.[7] The AWC folded after the 1995 season, and the Thunderbirds were 9–23–1 (.288) overall in those three years. They were an independent for eight years,[8] then became a charter conference member again in 2004 with the Great West Conference (GWC).[9]

In November 2010, Southern Utah announced its admission to the Big Sky Conference, effective in 2012.[10]

The Thunderbirds won their first Big Sky championship in 2015, defeating Northern Arizona 49–41 in the regular season finale at Cedar City. They had an 8–3 regular season, with losses to Utah State, South Dakota State, and Portland State; their eight wins were by mostly large margins. With the success, head coach Ed Lamb joined the staff at Brigham Young in Provo and defensive coordinator Demario Warren was promoted.[11]

In 2017, Southern Utah won their second Big Sky title, finishing the regular season at 9–2, with wins over four ranked (FCS) teams: Northern Iowa, Weber State, Eastern Washington, and NAU. The Thunderbirds earned the eighth seed in the FCS playoffs; Warren was the conference coach of the year and was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.

SUU joined the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), already home to regional rival Utah Tech, in 2022.[12] After the 2022 season, the WAC fully merged its football league with that of the ASUN Conference, creating what eventually became the United Athletic Conference, and SUU accordingly moved its football team to the new league.[13][14]

Football classifications

Conference affiliations


Conference championships

Year Coach Conference Overall record Conference record
1993 Jack Bishop American West Conference 3–7–1 3–1
2010 Ed Lamb Great West Conference 6–5 4–0
2015 Big Sky Conference 8–4 7–1
2017 Demario Warren 9–3 7–1
Conference Championships 4

† Co-champions

Division championships

Year Coach Division championship Opponent CG result
1970† Tom Kingsford RMAC Mountain N/A lost tiebreaker to Western New Mexico
Division Championships 1

† Co-champions

FCS Playoffs results

The Thunderbirds have appeared in the FCS playoffs three times with an overall record of 0–3.

Year Round Opponent Result
2013 First Round Sam Houston State L 20–51
2015 First Round Sam Houston State L 39–42
2017 Second Round Weber State L 13–30

Head coaches


Coach Tenure Record Pct
Bruce Osborne 1963–1964 9–6–1 .594
Bill Reeske 1965–1966 8–8 .500
Tom Kingsford 1967–1977 49–53 .480
Jack Bishop 1978–1982
80–74–4 .519
Don Conrad 1983–1985 14–14–1 .500
Rich Ellerson 1996 4–7 .364
C. Ray Gregory 1997–2002 28–38 .424
Gary Andersen 2003 4–7 .364
Wes Meier 2004–2007 10–33 .233
Ed Lamb 2008–2015 45–47 .489
Demario Warren 2016–2021 21–42 .333
DeLane Fitzgerald 2022–present 1–1 .500



  1. ^ "Branding & Creative - Marketing Communication". Retrieved October 13, 2022.
  2. ^ "NCAA Sports Sponsorship: Southern Utah University". NCAA. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
  3. ^ "DeLane Fitzgerald Named Head Football Coach at Southern Utah". December 14, 2021. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c "Southern Utah Football Yearly Results" (PDF). University of Southern Utah. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
  5. ^ "New conference formed". The Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. December 17, 1967. p. 2. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
  6. ^ Blackwell, Dave (September 7, 1985). "WSU should handle SUSC". The Deseret News. p. 2B.
  7. ^ "Southern Utah now part of American West". The Deseret News. July 16, 1993. p. D1. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
  8. ^ Hamilton, Linda (August 15, 1996). "SUU likes what it sees in Mid-Con". The Deseret News. p. D3. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
  9. ^ "Great West football conference announces formation". SUU Athletics. February 25, 2004. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
  10. ^ "Big Sky Conference expands". Associated Press. November 1, 2010. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
  11. ^ "SUU football: T-Birds earn program's first Big Sky championship". Retrieved 2016-08-26.
  12. ^ "WAC Announces Expansion, Plans to Reinstate Football" (Press release). Western Athletic Conference. January 14, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  13. ^ "ASUN And WAC Unveil 2023 Football Schedule" (Press release). Western Athletic Conference. December 20, 2022. Retrieved December 22, 2022.
  14. ^ "ASUN-WAC Football Partnership Formally Rebrands as the United Athletic Conference" (Press release). Western Athletic Conference. April 17, 2023. Retrieved April 21, 2023.
  15. ^ "Southern Utah Thunderbirds Athletics" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-12-19.