Dickinson State defensive coordinator, teacher Arlan Hofland to retire
Arlan Hofland never considered his jobs at Dickinson State as work.
But when he announced his retirement to his colleagues and players, he said it was the hardest thing he had ever done.
Hofland, a longtime DSU football coach and teacher, announced he will retire at the end of the 2015-16 academic year after 29 years.
"It's the only things I've ever done. Anytime you get done with your life's work, it's going to be a big adjustment," Hofland said. "It was tough. That's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. You have some people in the room you care a lot about and have done a lot of things with. It's tough to part ways."
Hofland walked on as a member of the Dickinson State College football team in 1972 as a nose guard. After graduating from DSC, Hofland taught at Garrison High School for four years, then coached University of North Dakota football as a graduate assistant coach. Hofland coached football at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for the next four years before returning to DSC.
Hofland then coached at DSC, which then became DSU, for 29 years while teaching physical education. He became the physical education department chair in 2000 before stepping down earlier this year.
"It's not only the loss of him as a coach and a person and what he taught our athletes, but what he did in the classroom of our students," DSU athletic director Tim Daniel said. "He's an excellent teacher and prepared our students in physical education as they prepare to go to out to be teachers. … When you have somebody with the expertise and ability to reach students at every level, that's going to be tough to replace.”
Hofland's defensive coaching helped the Blue Hawks to two Dakota Athletic Conference records in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed in a season (four) in 2005 and the fewest passing TDs allowed in a season (five) in 2007.
In his first year coaching, DSU was first in the nation in total defense (217.8 yards per game) and scoring defense (6.8 points per game). The next year, DSU led the country in passing defense (77.8 passing yards per game).
From 2000-2014, the Blue Hawks allowed 17.7 points, 117.6 rushing yards and 181.6 passing yards per game. Hofland coached 14 NAIA defensive all-Americans in his 29 years.
This season, Holfand led the fifth-best passing defense in the NAIA, which allowed 146.5 passing yards per game. The defense was also No. 16 in the country in total defense at 323.8 yards per game and scoring defense with 20 points per game.
But what is perhaps Hofland's biggest impact, Daniel said, is his time he put in, as he would often be the first one to campus at around 5 a.m. every morning and sometimes the last one working.
"We would've all liked to see him stay. He was an integral part of what we did," Daniel said. "It's a tough time. Selfishly, we'd like to keep him. And that's selfish because he's been a mentor to me and the rest of us. Even as coaches, we relied on coach Hofland and (former DSU head football coach Hank) Biesiot because of their experience and success. And that's not just me, but every coach in the department."
However, Hofland has been considering retirement since before this last season to spend more time with his family.
"It was a lot of hard work on my family's part," Hofland said. "It's time, but really when I look back at it, sometimes you think about the things you missed from your own kids’ lives because you were with somebody else's kids."
Hofland, who was an all-conference player in his his day, said he was part of one of DSC's first conference championship teams in a while.
And now this last year he was a part of DSU's first North Star Athletic Association championship and the Blue Hawks' first playoff berth in five years.
He said it was "a good beginning and a good end."
"It was just from my family's point of view, it's never easy to walk away from something you care deeply about," Hofland said. "The program is in great hands obviously. My wife and I felt that it's a good time to devout our time to our family. We're just at a time where it seemed to make a lot of sense.
“I just wanted to retire when somebody still didn't want me to. I didn't want to overstay my welcome."
By the sounds of the football team clapping when he told the players Friday, he did anything but overstay.
"They were probably a little bit surprised, but we also knew that it was more toward the end of his career," DSU head coach Pete Stanton said. "There was more sadness knowing that he made such an impact on our guys and that he won't be around them. They not only learned football lessons, but life lessons from coach Hofland."
While Daniel and Stanton didn't know Hofland would certainly retire until this week, they weren't surprised. Daniel said there is no plan in place yet to hire a replacement, but the athletic department will begin discussions in the near future.
However, to Daniel, Hofland may never be fully replaced.
"He was one of my mentors when I first showed up," said Daniel, who coached with Hofland. "He's been a mainstay of our university and will be tough to replace. When you look at him and coach Biesiot, they fall into that legendary category."
When Stanton took over as head coach, he knew Hofland wanted to coach just a few more years. Stanton said when Hofland told him his plans, Hofland said it simply felt like the right time.
"We spend a lot of time with each other," Stanton said. "I mean hours and hours of film time and bus trips. I coached with coach for 16 years and played for him. It's going to be a huge adjustment for me personally and the rest of the staff. But that's what it's about: the time that us coaches got to spend together. It's not always about wins and losses, but about the time we spent together. ... That's that time I'll miss."
Luckily, Hofland will still be around until the end of the school year, so he will help out with recruitment and other team responsibilities until then.
"We're all sad that he's going to retire," Stanton said, "but in our program we talk about family all the time, and it was a good time for coach to spend time with his family. The other thing is our hats are off to him for being a great educator and coach."
Hofland coached Stanton in his first year playing for DSU, and when Stanton thinks about Hofland, he thinks about integrity and honesty.
"He's just a true professional," Stanton said. "The players knew where they stood with him, whether they liked it or not. He was going to be the first to pat them on the back and support them outside of football. Coach epitomized being a Blue Hawk and doing things the right way and being a leader of young men."
Family, Hofland said, it was kept him in the program for so long.
"The things that I liked most of the program is when (players) come back and they introduce you to their families," Hofland said. "I hope that part never changes because over the years that's the thing that meant the most to me and I enjoyed the most."
And while there may be a new defensive coordinator at the sidelines of the Biesiot Activities Center in 2016, Hofland said he plans on sticking around the program for quite some time.
"You can't take away that big of a part of your life and just walk away," Hofland said. "It's always going to be a big part of my life. I'm always going to be pulling for the Hawks."