(Click the link above to listen to Hogan discuss the national championships, Rimington Award winners, friendship with Mike Van Diest, as well as his decision to retire from the sport.)
HELENA — After holding a football career that spanned nearly four decades, longtime Carroll College assistant coach Jim Hogan is set to retire from the game.
Hogan, who has served as offensive line and strength coach for the Fighting Saints, steps away from the gridiron after 37 years of coaching at the college and high school levels. He was a key part of Carroll’s six NAIA national football championships and 12 consecutive Frontier Conference titles from 2000-2011.
“It was a very hard decision to make. There were a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of early mornings, getting up and just trying to formulate how or what I wanted to visit with (Carroll College coach) Mike (Van Diest) about,” Hogan said. “I bought a thank you card and I got a gift certificate and I sat out in the parking lot for about three hours with scratch paper to formulate what I wanted to say in the card. I went up to Mike’s house three weeks ago on a Saturday, and I wanted (his wife) Heidi to be there, as well, and I wanted to let them both know that I had made a clear decision to step away from the game and move in a different direction.”
“It was my decision, nobody else’s decision,” Hogan continued, “but I just felt it was time for me. We talk about this at the end of careers, a lot of coaches, to give back to our family. My family has been important to me over the years. My wife (Barb) has been great and been the glue to our family. She’s done a great job keeping the kids (Anthony, Adam, James and Brittany) together and keeping the family concepts going. I can’t thank her enough for that.”
Hogan is one of the most well-respected coaches in the Frontier Conference and NAIA, guiding multiple offensive linemen to all-conference and all-American status. The guiding force behind Carroll’s strength and conditioning program, he was named the 2005-2006 Samson National Strength Coach of the Year. In 2013, the American Football Coaches Association named him the NAIA assistant football coach of the year.
He twice had centers earn national recognition, with Kyle Baker and Andy Fjeseth each winning the prestigious Dave Rimington Award, given annually to the best center in college football. Baker won the honor in 2005, while Fjeseth won five years later.
“There are only five of those given out each year, where the committee gets together and delves those awards out,” said Hogan. “To have two guys that fit that model was just unbelievable. There’s no coach in America that sets out a career and says, ‘I’m going to have this number of all-Americans, or this number of Dave Rimington Award winners, or this number of national champions.’ We all work hard toward those, but to achieve them is just awesome.”
Hogan’s football journey began in Lacey, Wash. before he joined the University of Montana football program. Van Diest was a coach at the time with the Montana Grizzlies, and the two sparked a friendship that helped bolster Carroll into one of the premier programs in the country.
“(Defensive line coach) Alex Kastens was over (Saturday) afternoon, and we were going down memory lane. I pulled out an old scrapbook from my days playing at the University of Montana and there’s Mike Van Diest in several of the pictures,” laughed Hogan. “I’m going to miss that football edge, that being in the grind, the staff meetings where the pressure is on you. ‘Who are your starting five? Who’s your backup? Who’s the next-best guy? How are we going to be competitive up front? What do we need to do create that competition?’ That stuff is fun and exciting, but it truly is a grind.”
The run down memory lane continued, with Hogan drifting back to his Western Montana College days, learning from coach Mick Dennehy, and eventually landed on his time with Billings Central. Hogan quickly became one of the marquee high school coaches in Montana, leading the Rams in football, wrestling and track and field.
But it was his time at Carroll College that truly put Hogan on the map. Carroll College was consistently one of the strongest, most physically fit programs in the nation, helping in the national championship seasons of 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2010.
“That is simply mind-blowing. Our goals are always to win game No. 1, and then game No. 2, win a conference title, and that allows you to get into the national playoff run for a national championship. What we did as a group, as a team and community, was just simply amazing,” said Hogan. “I do want to say, we won six national titles in eight appearances. That’s not to slight the two teams that didn’t win a national title, because to get to that point, there’s a lot of grind, a lot of snowy afternoons, a lot of sub-zero temperatures to get to that point when you’re practicing that late (in the year) in Helena, Montana. To get there eight times, to see the excitement and to be involved in the experience those men were getting was simply awesome.”
Despite the decision to step away from the game, Hogan has still been heavily involved in the recruiting process for the Fighting Saints. Friday morning was a 4:45 a.m. departure from Helena, a journey that led to Roundup, Billings, Great Falls and back to Helena after a 16-plus-hour day.
That type of commitment and dedication, even after deciding to retire, is no surprise to Van Diest and Carroll Nation. Hogan will move into a new position on campus, one to be officially announced this week, but admits it will be challenging not wearing a headset on the Saints’ sideline for the team’s season opener Aug. 23 at Rocky Mountain College, and especially the 2018 home opener on Sept. 1 against Montana Western.
“I knew that question would come up, but I’m not quite sure what I’ll do,” Hogan said of that game against the Bulldogs. “I’ll be torn. I’m sure I’ll be sitting there sobbing a little bit in joy and excitement. My emotions will be somewhat scattered. I just know myself well enough. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing that day, but I know I’ll be rooting hard for the Saints no matter where I’m at, or if I’m there in the crowd. But that will be a tough day for Jim Hogan, I guarantee you that.”
Carroll College is expected to announce Hogan’s replacement later this week.