Race for the Record
Editors' note: Kevin Donley's Cougars defeated Concordia University (Mich.), 76-14, to give Donley the new NAIA career-wins record with 257.
By Kay Hawes, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
Who doesn't love a good race? Especially when the competitors are worthy, the goal is lofty and the crowd is cheering loudly.
Just such a race is on right now in NAIA college football. Hank Biesiot of Dickinson State University (N.D.) and Kevin Donley of University of Saint Francis (Ind.) are tied at 255 career victories, second-best in the NAIA. The NAIA career-wins record of 256 is held by Frosty Westering, who retired from Pacific Lutheran University (Wash.), formerly of the NAIA, in 2003.
It's likely that the record will be tied and then fall soon. Biesiot and the Blue Hawks open their season this weekend against Rocky Mountain College (Mont.). Donley's Cougars opened their season last week with a 46-10 victory over Texas College. The Cougars take the field this week against the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
No matter who you favor in this race, it's easy to see there's no loser. Both Biesiot and Donley are winners in coaching and in their real job-teaching student-athletes to become responsible, dedicated young adults.
Hank Biesiot is beginning his 37th season at Dickinson State, where he is an associate professor of health and physical education, teaching everything from sports psychology to archery. Biesiot began teaching high school in 1967, and he has remained a teacher since-both on and off the field.
"He's such a classy person," said assistant coach Pete Stanton of Biesiot. "He has taught everyone to respect the bus driver, the custodian and the other team. The other word I'd use is consistency. He's never wavered in his philosophy or his style. He's only had three losing seasons his entire career. Class and consistency are the most important things about him."
Biesiot's success on the field has been impressive as the Blue Hawks have advanced to the playoffs in seven of the past 10 seasons. Biesiot has coached 31 NAIA All-Americans, won 17 conference titles and had 15 NAIA postseason appearances. He was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2006.
This summer, USA College Sports Inc. created the Biesiot Award to recognize the outstanding NAIA football player of the year. Winners will be chosen for their success in athletics, academics and community service.
Kevin Donley is beginning his 15th season at Saint Francis and his 34th season coaching college football. Prior to coming to the Cougars in 1998, Donley coached at the University of California (Pa.), Georgetown College (Ky.) and Anderson University (Ind.). Donley also has won NAIA Coach of the Year twice, in 2004 and in 1991.
Donley started the football program at Saint Francis 15 years ago, and his Cougars were ranked in the NAIA top 25 two years later. They have remained on that list ever since, with 13 consecutive winning seasons, 12 NAIA postseason appearances and six unbeaten regular seasons. Also notable are the three consecutive NAIA National Championship Runner-Up finishes, from 2004 to 2006.
But those who have played for Donley point out that winning isn't all he wants from his players.
"Coach D doesn't only build a team, he builds men," Matt Smith, a senior defensive tackle for the Cougars told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. "He builds men rather than just players...he builds men to be strong-minded, strong-willed, and to have passion for everything they do, not just football."
No matter who breaks the record, and who holds it the longest, both Biesiot and Donley are in rare air with so many wins. Among the all-time career wins list of football coaches at all levels, they are tied for 19th, ahead of former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz and Ohio State's Woody Hayes.
Both the NAIA and the NCAA recognize the wins of the other Association-after a 10-year waiting period-so it doesn't matter where the wins are accrued. And those who know football point out that a good coach looks the same, no matter where the field of play sits.
"No matter what the level...coaching is coaching and football is football," said Donley's son Pat, the Cougar's offensive coordinator, to the Journal Gazette. "You've got to know what the heck you're doing to be successful."
In this race, everyone wins.