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Biesiot resigns as DSU football coach after 38 years

Former Dickinson State University football coach Hank Biesiot speaks to the media Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, in the President's Box of the Henry Biesiot Activities Center, the team's stadium that was renamed to honor him last year. Dustin Monke/Dickinson Press

DICKINSON, N.D. -- It is the end of a great football dynasty.

After 38 years as Dickinson State University's head coach, Hank Biesiot is calling it a career. He officially resigned from the position Wednesday night.

"Well, 40-something years I've been thinking about it and the last couple years I've given it more serious thought," Biesiot said. "I don't know if there is a right time, a good time. We all want one more year as we're starting to run out of road. ... It's a good time in some respects with the makeup of our team. We got a young team with some leadership there.

"I think the guys who are going to coach and run the program are going to do a great job. There's continuity that was struck up this year I think that is going to be good going into a fresh start in a new conference."

While talk has been going on all season about his coaching future, Biesiot's official resignation came as a shock to his players as well as coaches across the country. Biesiot informed his players Wednesday at a team meeting he was resigning and surprise was the unanimous reaction.

"There's been stuff going around this that might have been his last year, but I really didn't think that was going to happen, so when it did there was definite shock and a great deal of sadness," freshman quarterback Kaler Ray said. "I was pretty bummed, to be honest."

Wins and losses

While coaching philosophies and trends change over the years, Biesiot has been a shining example of tradition.

Under his tenure, the Blue Hawks compiled an incredible 258-122-1 record, claimed 17 conference championships and made the NAIA playoffs 15 times, including seven of his last 12 seasons.

Biesiot was locked in a chase to become the NAIA's winningest coach during the 2011 and 2012 seasons and was tied for the lead with Kevin Donley of St. Francis (Ind.) before Donley surpassed him midway through the 2012 season.

Biesiot joined DSU in 1972 as a defensive coordinator under then-coach Bob Lasater and went on to win 17 conference titles in the North Dakota Collegiate Athletic Conference and Dakota Athletic Conference. Biesiot was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2006 and earned 19 different coach of the year awards.

Last season, the Badlands Activities Center -- where the Blue Hawk football team plays -- was renamed the Henry Biesiot Activities Center.

But with every high there is a low, and high-caliber coaches like Biesiot are not exempt from experiencing losses.

The past two seasons were, by far, Biesiot's most difficult as the Blue Hawks combined to go 3-19 in its only two seasons as a member of the Frontier Conference. The Blue Hawks finished this season with a 1-10 record. Their only win was in a nonconference game against old Dakota Athletic Conference rival University of Jamestown on Oct. 5.

Despite each loss, Biesiot believed in his team's potential and work ethic. But his players, like Ray, wish they could have done more for their coach, especially in his final season.

"I just wish, as a player for him and as a player on the last team he coached, we could have done better as a team," Ray said. "I really wish his last season could have been filled with wins rather than with losses because that's the kind of career he's had and I wish we could have sent him off on top."

Saying goodbye

While the figures, statistics and honors are impressive, most current and former players remember and admire Biesiot for his heavy focus on character both on and off the field.

"With him it's always about respect and he really preaches no celebrating, act like you've been there before, stuff like that," junior defensive tackle Sam Herauf said. "It was always the one thing you can always do. Stuff happens in games you can't control, but you can always control your attitude and how hard you're going to hustle."

Outside of his coaching techniques and theories, Biesiot's most recognizable and admired characteristic is how he holds conversations.

Both Ray and Herauf said Biesiot's conversations and child-at-heart attitude at practice are what they'll miss the most. Herauf remembers the recruiting process with the coach and its untraditional nature. As a senior at Dickinson High School, Herauf received a call to come to the school's front office. He wasn't expecting to talk to Biesiot.

"Out of nowhere, I get called in the office and coach B was there and I think we talked about football maybe for five minutes before we started talking about hunting and fishing, and all this other stuff," Herauf said. "At the end, he was like, 'Well Sam, we would love to have you on the team.' And that was pretty much my recruiting from coach B. Total coach B fashion."

Ray added: "It's kind of funny how coach B harps on doing the little things right. But honestly, I think what I will miss the most are the little things about coach B. We'll be stretching and he'll have these goofy, sly comments that he'd make and come stand right next to me and do jumping jacks next to me. ... Just really goofy stuff that would lighten the mood and remind us football was all about having fun."

After more than 40 years in the business, the Langdon native and Mayville State University graduate has coached thousands of players and watched them mature as players as well as men.

This season's team was full of underclassmen, a team Biesiot said at the start of the season was perhaps the youngest he had ever coached, and graduated only six seniors.

While it is difficult to say farewell, especially to a team of young players he didn't get a chance to finish working with, Biesiot said he believes he is leaving the team in good hands with a strong coaching staff and that "it's easy to feel good about it and where they're at."

"They have the making, they like to play football and you think would go without saying," Biesiot said. "I like their enthusiasm for the game, and I think there's also some leadership qualities that will step forward, and I think they're going to do fine. But it doesn't matter what the ex-coach thinks. They've got to continue to push and grow and make some strides."

Biesiot's life after football is officially in effect. But it isn't a heartbreaking goodbye, he said.

He admitted that his fall schedule will need some adjusting, but Biesiot joked that his next move after coaching will be to use his decades of knowledge to become an expert or insider.

"We go back four or five decades and all I've been doing is throwing balls or going to practice, so (when) 3 o'clock comes, it's going to be a little bit different. But maybe now I'll become a football expert like I've always been a basketball expert," he said with a laugh.