Glenn comes ‘full circle’ at USD

A week ago, Joe Glenn was a retired football coach, living in sunny Arizona, working on what he called a "struggling" golf game.

Five days later, he was standing at a podium in front of a curious crowd, actively leading a rendition of the school song.

So begins — or in this case, restarts — the Glenn era at the University of South Dakota, as the 62-year-old alum was announced as the new head football coach during a press conference Wednesday in Vermillion.

Joe Glenn

As he walked to the podium, the events of the past week seemed to suddenly leave the normally talkative coach speechless.

"Wow," he said, smiling and pausing to look down at his notes. Looking back out at the large crowd, he added, "Somebody come up here and pinch me."

Thirty-seven years after leaving USD for a coaching career across three levels that would result in three national championships, Glenn – a 1971 graduate – is back to lead his alma mater.

Joking later that he said no to the job three times, Glenn said he felt a "calling" when athletic director David Sayler and associate A.D. David Herbster visited him in Phoenix, AZ, last Wednesday.

"You can tell when your heart's beating and something feels right," he later told a small group of reporters. "They asked, 'Will you be our coach?' And I said, 'You're damn right.'

"I was about ready to head-butt the lockers."

Statements like that were par for the course during Glenn's first official day as the football coach, a job he said brings him "full circle."

Glenn, already in the USD Hall of Fame, played for the Coyotes from 1967-70 under coach Joe Salem, and later was a backfield coach in 1974. After a stop at Northern Arizona, Glenn served as head coach at Doane College (1976-79), Northern Colorado (1989-99), Montana (2000-02) and Wyoming (2003-08).

He won a pair of Division II national titles at Northern Colorado in 1996 and 1997, and won a Division I-AA, now FCS, championship at Montana in 2001.

When USD came calling after former coach Ed Meierkort was fired on Nov. 22, Glenn said he looked inward and decided he was ready to roam the sidelines again.

"I realized, 'OK, they want me. I've got the energy, the background and the experience, I can still coach,'" he said. "I realized it was a calling."

Seeking a coach that would meet four standards, leadership, discipline, academic priorities and conference championships, Sayler – the second-year athletic director – found his man right away.

"I couldn't believe the passion for the S-D that he has, with his love for this program and this university as a whole," Sayler said. "It just bled right through him. You could feel it, you could feel the energy.

"It's something special."

Among those in attendance Monday was Wes Beschorner, the USD offensive coordinator who served as interim head coach since Meierkort's firing. No stranger to Glenn, Beschorner said his newest boss is unquestionably the man to lead the Coyotes further in the FCS ranks.

"I've known him for a long time, and he's been great," Beschorner said. "He's helped me along the way, and he'll help this university. There's no question he's an energetic guy. You can feel it echo off his body.

"That's a pretty special feeling," he added, with a wide smile.

How that energetic attitude will translate on Saturdays for the Coyotes – who join the Missouri Valley Football Conference next season and are playoff eligible for the first time – is still to be determined. Yet, Glenn was not shy about the challenges that lay ahead.

Chief among those obstacles is not only recruiting against the likes of South Dakota State, North Dakota State and Northern Iowa, but beating those teams.

"My gut feeling to start out with is, when we were here, we could go in the ring and touch gloves with North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Northern Iowa, and win our fair share," Glenn said. "I don't see any reason why we can't.

"We've got the same amount of scholarships they do, so we'll touch gloves and fight as hard as we can for 12 rounds."

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