Meierkort takes reins of USD football program

Meierkort takes reins of USD football program University of South Dakota President James Abbott and USD's Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen listen as Ed Meierkort, the university's new football coach, fields a reporter's question at a press conference Thursday. by David Lias The mystery ended Thursday, Dec. 18.

At a press conference held in the Al Neuharth Media Center, university officials announced that Ed Meierkort, 44, has been named USD's 28th head football coach.

Meierkort's appointment is subject to approval by the South Dakota Board of Regents.

"We're starting something today, a journey for not only myself but also for this university that's very exciting," said Joel Nielsen, USD's director of athletics.

Nielsen said a quick but thorough search and screening process was conducted to narrow the number of football coach candidates to three.

"All three candidates had head coaching experience," he said. "They were treated in a first-class way, and that says a lot for the community."

Nielsen said distinguishing factors USD sought in its new football coach are experience in managing a program, recruiting history and ability to assemble a staff.

"Another thing we shouldn't overlook is the history of winning," he said, "and how important it is to win."

Meierkort, Nielsen said, matches that profile nearly perfectly.

"He's a good person to work for, he's fair, he allows his coaches to coach, and his coaches stay with him," Nielsen said.

Meierkort said he was excited by the enthusiasm of the Coyote football players he met during the interview process.

"What I won't do is spout off any expectations ? all I know is I will make sure the assembled staff and the program here will be one this university will be proud of, and this state will be proud of," Meierkort said.

The new coach said he is committed to scouring South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa to find the top gridiron athletes in the region.

"We're going to go out and get good football players, because this is a great place for them," he said.

Prior to his coaching duties at Wisconsin-Stout, Meierkort served as an assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator, defensive coordinator and strength coach at Southwest Minnesota State from 1983-89. He was the assistant head coach from 1989-93 and defensive coordinator from 1984-89.

During his time with the Mustangs, the squad twice won the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and qualified for the NAIA playoffs two times. Southwest Minnesota State finished in the top-10 twice, including a No. 5 ranking in 1990. He was the defensive coordinator for the NAIA's No. 1 ranked defense in

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1988 and defensive coordinator for the nation's No. 2 ranked team in 1991.

Prior to going to Southwest Minnesota State, he served as a graduate assistant at South Dakota State in 1983. During the 1982 season, he was defensive coordinator and head coach for baseball at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell.

Meierkort earned a bachelor of arts degree in business administration in 1982 from Dakota Wesleyan. Originally of Chicago, IL, he also earned a master of arts degree in athletic administration from South Dakota State University in 1987.

Thanks in part to his recruiting ability, Meierkort greatly improved the football fortunes at Wisconsin-Stout, which did not own a tradition of winning in its 75 years of football.

By going to a balanced offense to complement its perennially strong defense, the Blue Devils became one of the best teams in the WIAC. In 2000, Meierkort began the resurgence in Blue Devil football by registering one of the great turnaround seasons in not only Wisconsin-Stout history but in all of Division III.

From a 2-8 record in 1999, Wisconsin-Stout won its first 10 games of the 2000 season, losing only in the NCAA Division III playoffs to St. John's (MN), 26-19.

During that special season, the Blue Devils had a 7-0 record in one of the best Division III conference in the nation. Wisconsin-Stout became just the 11th team to record a perfect conference mark since 1965.

Meierkort was the 2000 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Conference Coach of the Year and the American Football Coaches Association Region 5 Coach of the Year. In 2000, he was also a finalist for the AFCA National Coach of the Year award.

From 2001-03, Wisconsin-Stout has been nationally ranked in each of the past three seasons, including a No. 5 ranking in 2000. His team's accomplishments in that span include an 18-2 record at home as well as an 11-6 record against the top five teams in the WIAC.

Equally impressive is his record vs. NCAA Division II opponents. He has played 19 Division II squads, recording nine wins at a program that does not offer athletic scholarships. In addition, Meierkort has recruited and coached 16 All-Americans and had two players move on to the National Football League.

Meierkort said Thursday he had two major tasks to complete in the next week.

"I have two goals this weekend � number one is to make sure my team is comfortable so they can go home and enjoy Christmas," he said, "and understand the Coyote football program is in good, strong hands.

"The second thing is to try to develop a staff between now and Tuesday (Dec. 23)," Meierkort said. "It seems like an impossible job, but it's something that has to be done as quickly as possible."

Meierkort and his wife, Terri, who is originally from Custer, have two sons, Reid and Chase.

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