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Dawning of a new era: Dickinson State linebackers coach Pete Stanton named newest Blue Hawks football head coach

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Pete Stanton stands at the podium after he's announced as the new coach of the Dickinson State football team on Tuesday at the Biesiot Activities Center.1 / 2
Press Photo by Dustin Monke In this 2010 photo, Dickinson State assistant coach Pete Stanton, center, talks to his defensive players during a game against Minot State in Minot. Stanton was named the 15th head coach in DSU program history and was a 1987 graduate of DSU and coached the Blue Hawks for the past 14 years.2 / 2

The Dickinson State football program was built on the strong foundations of tradition and excellence.

So it came as no surprise the university hired a talented alumnus as its new head coach.

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After spending 14 years as an assistant football coach and winning three NAIA national championships as Dickinson State’s track and field coach, Pete Stanton was announced Tuesday as the program’s 15th head football coach and successor to legendary coach Hank Biesiot during a short press conference at the Biesiot Activities Center.

“It’s definitely a privilege and an honor to be the next coach at Dickinson State,” Stanton said.

Stanton played for Biesiot, who resigned Nov. 21 after 38 years as head coach, and was a defensive assistant and linebackers coach. As a player, the 1987 DSU graduate was named first-team NAIA all-American as a safety and received the Harry J. Wienbergen award for outstanding male student-athlete.

As an assistant coach, the Baker, Mont., native helped his team to seven conference championships and seven NAIA playoff appearances.

In a program that prides itself on tradition, Stanton — a part of Blue Hawk football for nearly 20 years — said he understands the shear importance of that tradition and his main goal as head coach is to keep it alive, and to preach its importance.

“I want our current players to understand how much pride and how much loyalty and how much success there has been in this program,” Stanton said. “... When they leave this program, I want it to be, for them, one of the best experiences that they’ve had — and it’s not all about the football. Part of it (is) that they’d be good students, they be good people, they’re good in the classroom, they’re good in the community and a good representation of Dickinson State everywhere.”

An abundance of people attended the announcement, including several of Stanton’s friends and family, other DSU coaches and a small group of current and past football players in the back of the room.

Sophomore linebacker Matt McCoy, freshman quarterback Kaler Ray, junior receiver Dalyss Hanson and freshman receiver Dalton Reid were some of the current Blue Hawks showing support for their new head coach.

As linebackers coach, Stanton worked directly with McCoy, who said he is excited for the new coaching change and believes the team has a bright future ahead.

“We’re all excited for coach Stanton to step on up and take the reins,” McCoy said. “We, as a team, have big expectations for ourselves. For every year a team has to have big expectations, regardless of the coach. But I feel like we’re going in the right direction now and hopefully we’ll build on that, and coach Stanton is the coach to do it.”

On the offensive side of the ball, Ray understands there will be changes ahead with a defensive-minded head coach. Nevertheless, Ray said he trusts Stanton’s judgment and knowledge of the program.

“We’re going to have a few changes on the offense. But hopefully they’re all going to be for the good, so we’re all looking forward to it,” Ray said. “It’s nice that we hired within because we’re all comfortable with coach Stanton already. There’s not going to be drastic changes and we’re all moving forward.”

With the promotion to head football coach, Stanton announced he is stepping down as DSU’s head track and field coach. Under Stanton, the men’s team won three consecutive NAIA outdoor titles from 2004 to 2006, and finished as national runner-up five times. He has been named NAIA outdoor coach of the year four times.

DSU athletics director Tim Daniel said an interim head coach will be announced later in the week.

Stanton talked to the track and field teams Monday about his departure and said he told them to keep pressing on and stay involved. With 11 NAIA all-Americans returning in track and field this year, he has faith the teams will be just fine without him.

“We have a wonderful number of track and field athletes that I’ve worked with for many years and what I did was talk to them about was staying involved,” he said. “Coach Daniel was gracious enough to let me stay involved this year with the program. But I won’t continue as the head track and field coach.”

With Stanton now in charge, the work of rebuilding the football program is officially underway.

Despite a 1-11 finish this season, Stanton said he has a great support system in his assistant coaches and a persistent team that will help bring the winning tradition back to DSU.

“Maybe this season didn’t go the way we exactly wanted it to, but their effort and their attitude was great every day,” Stanton said. “They were great to coach, the guys in this room. The coaching staff is looking forward to continuing on, and working with you guys and being a part of that tradition so many people have been a part of for so many years.”

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.