Chasing historyDickinson State coach Hank Biesiot 6 wins away from NAIA record
Hank Biesiot had some pep in his step. As the August sun blazed down on the Badlands Activities Center turf, there was just enough of a breeze to keep the steamy afternoon from becoming intolerable.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Hank Biesiot had some pep in his step.
As the August sun blazed down on the Badlands Activities Center turf, there was just enough of a breeze to keep the steamy afternoon from becoming intolerable.
As the Dickinson State football team began their stretching routine for the first practice of the year, Biesiot strolled onto the field and observed his team’s new and familiar faces with the cheery optimism of head coach in his first season.
“Every year is different, which is part of the fun of it,” he said later as he sat in the coaches’ locker room.
Thirty-six years after taking over as DSU’s head coach, Biesiot has molded the Blue Hawks into one of the most successful small-college programs in the nation.
Under Biesiot’s, DSU has won 17 conference championships — including the past three Dakota Athletic Conference crowns — and has made 15 national tournament appearances.
In 2006, Biesiot’s peers felt he had already accomplished enough in his career to earn a spot in the NAIA Hall of Fame.
Yet today he stands six victories from what could be his grandest achievement of all.
Biesiot can become the NAIA’s all-time winningest coach if he coaches DSU to six wins this season.
Frosty Westering is the all-time leader. He coached Pacific Lutheran University to 256 wins in the NAIA before the team moved to NCAA Division III.
Biesiot, with a career record of 251-96-1, is the winningest active coach in the NAIA and has ranked second behind Westering on the all-time wins chart for a few years. However, he said breaking the record rarely crosses his mind — and his staff backs up that statement.
“I’m sure he’ll say, ‘If you stay at any place long enough,’” DSU defensive coordinator Arlan Hofland said with a dry wit. “It’s one of his standard lines.”
Too many memories
When the Blue Hawks visit Rocky Mountain College for their season opener Saturday, it will be Biesiot’s 349th game as head coach.
It will be his 385th at DSU when counting the four seasons he spent as the team’s defensive coordinator under Bob Lasater.
After four decades of football games, forgive Biesiot if his memory is a little hazy.
“I can’t remember my first game as a head coach,” Biesiot said with a laugh. “I can’t. Honestly.”
The game, played in the fall of 1976, was actually quite forgettable. The Blue Hawks beat Black Hills State 36-0 to start a season they finished at 4-4-1, the third-worst winning percentage in Biesiot’s career.
However, Biesiot does remember his first game at DSU. It was a 14-13 victory over Black Hills State in 1972 and memorable because of a last-minute touchdown pass, Biesiot recalled.
“It went right down to the wire,” he said.
Biesiot has seen it all on DSU’s sidelines. There are too many blowouts and last-second victories for him to count, let alone remember.
This year’s Blue Hawk team just wants their coach to see six more wins.
“I don’t know if we’ll come right out and say anything about it, but I guarantee everybody is thinking about it,” senior linebacker Jerel Hafner said.
With the depleted DAC down to four teams — DSU plays Jamestown College, Mayville State and Valley City State twice this season — six wins is an achievable goal.
In 35 years as head coach, Biesiot’s teams have averaged seven wins a season. The worst it ever got, record-wise, was in 2007 when a young and injury-riddled Blue Hawk team finished 3-7.
Aside from that and one other losing season, Biesiot’s Blue Hawks have been consistently tough to beat.
“Every game, every season has it’s highlights,” Biesiot said. “That’s the way it should be, too. Not pointing to one game. We’ve been lucky to look at it that way.”
There have been both good and bad breaks. Biesiot has had teams ranked as high as No. 1 in the NAIA and had others go undefeated through the regular season, only to lose in the national playoffs.
He has done it with a subtle consistency and few major upheavals of his coaching staff. Hofland, for example, has been his assistant for 25 seasons.
“That’s the foundation of this program,” Hofland said. “There is some consistency in this program, when you compare it to others, as far as it be the assistant coaches who have been with him for a considerable period of time or those things. There’s some things about coach that aren’t going to change and you can count on it.”
While many teams around the country have gravitated toward spread offenses, Biesiot has never once put his quarterback in the shotgun formation.
He prefers his quarterback under center, dropping back and throwing quick routes or downfield fly patterns to mix up an offense that typically runs the ball 30 to 40 times a game.
“He has a lot of patience as a person, but a lot of patience on the football field,” said Pete Stanton, DSU’s linebackers coach the past 12 seasons and a former NAIA All-America selection as a player under Biesiot. “There’s a lot of games that he’s won over the years just because he’s been very patient with a lot of little things in the football game.”
Not everything changes
Forty years have passed since Biesiot first arrived in Dickinson and much has changed, especially with the game and the team he holds so dear to his heart.
The shiny new BAC casts a shadow over artificial turf. It’s hardly the quaint, prairie-like setting Biesiot once presided over at Whitney Stadium.
His players have swapped their tight quarters at Wienbergen Gymnasium for plush locker rooms in the BAC’s lower level.
Heck, even his team’s wardrobe is different. While the Blue Hawks’ game day jersey’s aren’t exactly Oregon-esque, they’re as fancy as they’ve ever been.
The stadium, players and city around him are completely different than they were his first day on campus. A quarter-mile west from where he stands on DSU’s sideline was once farmland. It’s now one of Dickinson’s nicest neighborhoods.
Everything seems to be changing — and fast.
Not Biesiot though. He’s a model of stability.
“The biggest thing with him is just his consistency,” Stanton said. “The way he treats the players, the way he treats the community and the way he treats people in general. Everybody gets treated fairly. Everybody gets treated the same. The fact that he’s been consistent is a reason why he’s been so successful over the years.”
NAIA active football coach wins list
1. Hank Biesiot, Dickinson State, 1976-2010, 251-96-1.
2. Kevin Donley, Anderson (Ind.) & Georgetown (Ky.) & California (Pa.) & Saint Francis (Ind.), 1978-2010, 246-114-1.
3. Larry Wilcox, Benedictine (Kan.), 1979-2010, 220-123.
4. Mike Van Diest, Carroll College (Mont.), 1999-2010, 144-20.
5. Bill Cronin, Georgetown (Ky.), 1997-2010, 133-34.
6. Monty Lewis, Southwestern (Kan.) & Friends (Kan.), 1993-2010, 118-55.
7, Dave Dallas, Kansas Wesleyan, 1989-2010, 117-100-1.
8, Paul Troth, Huron (S.D.) & Missouri Valley, 1997-2010, 106-49.
9, Mike Feminis, St. Xavier (Ill.), 1999-2010, 102-40.
10, Keith Barefield, Evangel (Mo.) & NW Oklahoma St., 1988-97 & 2007-10, 96-47-2.
Source: Chad Waller, NAIA Sports Information Director