This week’s Sports Web Live will take place Wednesday (Feb. 27) at 4 p.m. with a visit from Brian Hermanson.
Matt Zimmer and I will talk with Hermanson about his decision to step down as Washington High football coach this week after a successful eight-year run that included three state titles over the past four years.
Viewers can go to ArgusLeader.com at 4 p.m. to ask questions or share comments.
To get you ready, here’s a look at my column on Hermanson’s resignation from Wednesday’s section:
For many years, Brian Hermanson focused on being a high school football coach, sometimes at the expense of being an available father.
That changed Tuesday as Hermanson formally resigned as head coach at Washington, ending an eight-year stint with the Warriors that was among the most successful in South Dakota prep history.
After leading the school to three Class 11AA titles over the past four years – with a remarkable 47-3 record during that stretch – Hermanson gathered his players Tuesday morning and broke the news that he is stepping down.
He wants to spend time watching his son, Matt, play football at the University of Montana, where the former Washington quarterback will be a junior starting safety in 2013.
“It’s time for me to be a dad instead of a coach, because those are moments I’m never going to get back,” said Hermanson, 54, a former Washington and Roosevelt assistant who took the Warriors head coaching reins from Kim Nelson in 2005.
“You have to put your heart and soul into this program to be successful, and right now I’m not in a position to do that.”
Sioux Falls School District activities coordinator Mark Meile said the job will be posted soon, with the goal of having someone hired by the middle of April. Hermanson will stay on at Washington as a physical education teacher and assistant track coach.
“Most of us were surprised when we heard,” said junior linebacker Dan Marlette, who will be a key player for the Warriors in 2013. “I definitely understand that he wants to watch his son play, but I would have liked to have seen him coach my senior year. There wasn’t much to be said.”
One possible candidate would be Washington offensive coordinator Ryan Folsom, a former O’Gorman standout who has been on the Warriors’ staff for 13 years. But neither Meile nor Hermanson would comment specifically on possible applicants.
“I would anticipate that we’ll have applications from within Washington High and the Sioux Falls district, as well as outside,” said Meile. “Just like when (current Roosevelt coach) Kim Nelson left after the 2004 season, I’m sure we’ll get a very capable replacement.”
Hermanson compiled a total record of 82-16 after taking the reins when Nelson left to become head coach at Edina, Minn., and his presence seemed like a natural fit. “Hermie” had helped the Warriors win a mythical state title as a player in 1976 before enjoying a solid career at South Dakota State.
“He paid his dues by doing his time as an assistant in the school system,” said O’Gorman coach Steve Kueter. “He loves coaching, and Washington was the perfect job for him. He got the kids out and enthused and interested. There was little doubt that he would have success.”
Hermanson kept the entire staff at Washington that had worked under Nelson, with Folsom moving to offensive coordinator and Hermanson guiding the defense.
“They had a good thing going when I came here, and we tweaked it and made it a little better,” said Hermanson, who has led the Warriors to a Class 11AA-record six straight DakotaDome trips.
“The staff believed in my vision, and we got our kids to buy into the program. We had some great athletes, but the reason why our program was so successful is that the kids believed in it. Instead of seeing a handful of kids in the weight room in the summer, we would get 80 or 90 a day.”
Success wasn’t immediate, but after two seasons Hermanson adopted the 3-4 stunting defense he learned from former SDSU teammate Mike Breske, now serving as defensive coordinator at Washington State.
It was a departure from the 4-3 scheme Hermanson ran for eight years under Brent DeBoer at Roosevelt, but it helped Washington use its defensive quickness while establishing a reputation for aggressive, hard-hitting play.
“You learn that physicality right off the bat at Washington, and then it depends on the player,” said former Warrior standout Brandon Mohr, now a linebacker at Augustana. “The kids who bought in and (embraced) that style of player usually found some success.”
Mohr’s senior class of 2011, which included Matt Hermanson and current Oklahoma offensive tackle Derek Farniok, reeled off perfect seasons in 2009 and 2010 to kick off the Washington dynasty.
Last season’s team, led by Nebraska recruit Nate Gerry and a host of other NCAA signees, also went undefeated to take Hermanson’s program to unprecedented levels.
Recruiters took notice of the Warrior Way (which included off-season emphasis on track and field and weight work) and lined up. Washington has sent 51 players to play college football since Hermanson took over, including eight out of 30 seniors this past season. Of those 51 college recruits during the Hermanson era, 22 signed with Division I programs, with four going to bowl-eligible schools.
“(Hermanson) is the epitome of Washington High School, because he thinks beyond the football program to get his kids involved in track, wrestling and other sports,” said Meile. “In this day and age, that might be seen as ‘old school,’ but it was very effective.”
But once his son left high school and headed to Montana, it was difficult for Hermanson to balance family and football. After Washington games, he would take a 6 a.m. flight Saturday morning to go watch Matt play, and then return early Sunday morning to watch Warrior game tape and meet with his assistants.
“It was hard to juggle,” says Hermanson, whose daughter, Kelli, also now lives in Missoula. “I was watching the (Montana) games but thinking about other things (in Sioux Falls). I want to be a father and do things with other parents and support Montana football.”
He will do that for two years, but he leaves open the possibility of returning to coaching after that, whether at the high school or college level.
“I don’t think he’ll be able to stay away,” says Mohr, who is doing a college paper on leadership principles and keeps thinking about his old coach.
As for Dan Marlette, he’ll think about the good times, marveling at how Hermanson took good players with positive attitudes and turned them into something great.
“I liked the chemistry he had with us,” says Marlette, whose older brother, Tim, starred at Washington and USD. “He wasn’t afraid to joke around, but he knew when to be tough. His intensity during practices was a factor in how well we played in games.”
Marlette and his teammates will never forget the moments after last season’s championship win over Brandon Valley at the DakotaDome. They had been waiting for their coach to come pose for a team photo, and Hermanson came sprinting in and did a joyous leap in the air that seemed symbolic of shedding the weight of heavy expectations – that rare air that winners feel.
“It was the most excited I’ve ever seen him,” says Marlette. “I thought it was pretty special.”