(Editor's note: Montana State-Northern Athletics release)
HAVRE – The Montana State University-Northern football program has announced NAIA coaching legend, Mike Van Diest, has joined its coaching staff as defensive coordinator.
During 19 years as head coach at Carroll College, Van Diest led the Fighting Saints to six national championships and 14 Frontier Conference championships (including 12 straight titles from 2000-2011) in one of the most dominating runs in college football history. The Saints have posted a 198-48 record during the past 16 seasons. This includes a Frontier Conference mark of 138-28. The Saints have compiled a playoff record of 39-8 over the past 14 years.
“It is pretty exciting to have coach Van Diest join us as defensive coordinator," said MSU-Northern head coach Andrew Rolin. "We are talking about a coach who is one of the greatest coaches in NAIA history. He led his team to six national championships as the head coach at Carroll. He is a legend in the state and across the country. He is bringing his expertise not only defensively but as a head coach and as a leader of young men. I am excited to work with him and learn from him."
Coach Van Diest explained, “I received a call from Coach Rolin and he shared with me that his defensive coordinator, Rich Stubler, had taken another job back in the Canadian Football League. He said he was looking for a good replacement and would I consider the job. On the way back from Billings my wife Heidi and I talked about the opportunity and I talked with a few more people including my sons, Shane and Clay, and the more I thought about it the more I was excited about the opportunity."
“I think the biggest thing is to give the players an opportunity to have success,” said Van Diest. “I want to continue to do what Coach Rolin has set up to do, which is being successful on the field, being successful off the field on the campus, and in the Havre community. I love this age group; when I was a college football player I remember the impact that my coaches had on me. Overall, for me I want to be someone the players have confidence in not just as football coach but I’m a dad, I’m a husband maybe there are some things I can help them with off the field as well,” said Van Diest.
“I look forward to coming to Northern, I like the new stadium,” said Van Diest. “I coached at the University of Montana when we played at the old Dornblaser Field. When they got Washington-Grizzly Stadium, that was a game changer. I was very blessed to come to Carroll in '99 and in 2001 we opened Nelson Stadium, it was on campus and that was a game changer. You played all those years in Blue Pony stadium, it was a stadium, both teams came, both teams played. But to have your own facility on campus, I think is great for MSU-Northern, the students, the faculty, the administration, the city of Havre and the communities around Havre. As Chancellor Kegel has said, it's a great way to showcase the campus, not just the football team. I think the plans they have for future development are outstanding so they have taken a step in the right direction that is for sure."
“I am encouraged about the direction we are headed," said Rolin. "We graduated only one player from the spring. We are bringing in some talented players. We are another year older and we are finally getting to the point where we have experience and maturity and some leadership and ownership of the team."
While at Carroll College, Van Diest coached 37 All-Conference linebackers with eight being named First Team All-Americans: Joe Horne (2001), Cory Perzinski (2002), Marcus Atkinson (2003), Gary Cooper (2004, 2005), Seamus Molloy (2006), Owen Koeppen (2007, 2008) and Thomas Dolan (2010) and Sean Blomquist (2013, 2014). Horne, Atkinson, Cooper, Koeppen (twice), Dolan (twice) and Blomquist (twice) were also named Frontier Conference Defensive Player of the Year. During his tenure as head coach Van Diest has been named Frontier Conference Coach of the Year ten times. In 2003 and 2005 Van Diest was named NAIA National Coach of the Year by the American Football Association as well as the AFCA Coach of the Year in 2003, 2007 and 2010.
Van Diest is a 1970 graduate of Helena High School. His career has included stops at his alma mater, the University of Wyoming (1976-1979, 1991-1998), the University of Montana (1980-1985), the University of Massachusetts - Amherst (1986), and the Big Ten representative, Northwestern University (1987-1991), as an assistant coach. Van Diest has won titles at Montana (Big Sky Champions, 1982), Wyoming (two Western Athletic Conference Championships and one Pacific Division Championship, 1986), and 14 Frontier Conference Championships at Carroll, as well as, the 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2010 NAIA National Championships. He and his wife Heidi have two sons, Shane, 31 and Clay, 24.