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Biesiot a 'class act' from beginning to end

In the sports world, you know you have made it in life when you are on ESPN. Well, in a superficial sense.

The real way to tell you’ve made it in life is by the words of your peers. In the coaching realm, former Dickinson State football head coach Hank Biesiot is considered a legend.

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With Biesiot’s illustrious career officially complete after 38 seasons, it’s time for the public to weigh in on how they feel about the coach’s departure.

A good start is landing on the sidebar of “Hank Biesiot to hang up whistle” was a brief, 418-word article on Biesiot’s resignation and career. While the national broadcasting of collegiate retirements are normally thought to be reserved for prestigious college coaches like Bobby Bowden or failures like Lane Kiffin, this shows the impact Biesiot had on football even at the less-covered NAIA level.

Mike Van Diest, football head coach at Carroll College, said he is pleased to see coach B’s national recognition and that small university programs shouldn’t be overlooked.

“This is a great profession and when you lose guys like coach Biesiot, coach (John) Gagliardi from St. John’s (Minn.) — I know that small college coaches don’t get the accolade but they should be front-page news because (of) what they do with their programs. And what guys like Biesiot has done or Gagliardi, with the type of players they’ve turned,” Van Diest said, “their success to me really goes beyond the scoreboard.”

To be compared to Gagliardi, the longest-tenured football coach in American history after 64 seasons, is a high compliment and Van Diest is not the only coach to think so. The general consensus around the country is that Biesiot has always been nothing short of a class act and very passionate for the game of football.

Shawn Frank, head coach for the University of Jamestown and a Hettinger native, remembers watching Biesiot growing up and always knowing he wanted to coach just like him.

“Growing up in Hettinger, when coach Biesiot started putting Dickinson State football on the map and anyone who was thinking about going into coaching, specifically coaching football, he was certainly somebody that a young individual in junior high, high school, wanted to be someday because he did it his way and he did it the right way,” Frank said.

Frank was recruited by Biesiot to play football but went to University of Mary instead and was also an assistant coach there. Watching the Blue Hawks in action as a boy in Hettinger to becoming the head coach at Jamestown, Frank always knew his opponent would be well disciplined, fundamentally sound and of course, well coached.

While Van Diest considered it “an honor being on opposite sidelines,” and Frank always saw him as “a great coach, a great mentor and a great friend,” Southern Illinois head coach Dale Lennon had the privilege to actually coach alongside Biesiot.

Lennon, who went on to lead the University of North Dakota to a NCAA Division II national title in 2001, was the linebackers coach in 1987 and remembered the first time he met the head coach he calls a cross between John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart.

“I was at the first staff meeting and went home that night and told my wife, ‘I don’t think we’re going to be very good,’ because Henry always had a way of downplaying everything and is humble. That year we finished (9-1) in the season and No. 1 in the country,” Lennon said with a laugh. “That best sums up Henry. He’s about as humble as an individual you can find, and he’s as well respected of a man that I’ve ever come across.”

The loss of Biesiot at DSU was somewhat expected, but nonetheless a sad day in college football.

It is rare to see coaches stay with one team their entire career anymore, a type of loyalty soon to be extinct. While some coaches will try and move up and strive for the big programs, Biesiot proved you can be content at one program for your career, as well as become highly successful. His presence and character on the field will be dearly missed but always remembered.

“You saw it with Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden, I don’t know if we’ll see it very much anymore in this profession because people hire and fire guys too quick and coaches want to get to that next level — the bigger and better the paycheck, and that’s fine,” Van Diest said. “But I admire Hank for being at Dickinson, the success he’s had, doing it his way throughout all these decades, that’s amazing.”

Frank added: “I tell you what, if those of us in the coaching profession now can do an eighth of what he’s done relative to wins, we’ll consider ourselves lucky.”

MacDonald is a sports reporter for The Dickinson Press. Email her at Tweet her @MegtotheMac.

Meaghan MacDonald

Meaghan is the sports page designer and copy editor for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.  After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism and was a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press and covered Dickinson State athletics. Meaghan has been working for the Forum since June 2015.