UPDATE: BSU removes ‘interim’ tag, officially names Bolte head football coach
BEMIDJI -- After nearly a year of uncertainty, the Bemidji State football program finally found some stability on its sidelines.
Brent Bolte was officially announced as BSU’s 16th head football coach Monday. Bolte coached the entirety of the 2016 football season as the Beavers’ interim coach. Former head coach Jeff Tesch was unexpectedly removed from the BSU sidelines two days before the team’s season opener for using a racial slur during practice.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” Bolte said. “I always wanted to be a head coach, but you certainly don’t want it to happen when the guy you worked for 17 years (was dismissed). Jeff’s a great guy and I fully believe that Beaver football is where it’s at because of him, but somehow we have to be able to move forward.”
Bolte was hired by Tesch in 2000 and was named BSU’s co-defensive coordinator in 2005.
After Tesch’s sudden departure, Bolte was named interim coach and lead the team to a 9-3 record and a Mineral Water Bowl victory over Washburn University -- their best season since 2006.
Bolte said he doesn’t expect many changes on the field -- the Beavers return a bulk of their team, including six of 11 starters on offense and eight of 11 on defense. But there were more changes on the sidelines. Bolte promoted Rob Aurich to defensive coordinator and hired three first-year assistants, including former BSU cornerback Damon Benham, who will be the defensive backs coach.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of drastic differences from what we’ve done in the past. We have a younger staff who do some things differently,” he said. “We’re going to be more aggressive with our recruiting process and more aggressive with everything.”
“I’m not sitting here wanting the status quo. We have to be invested in the recruiting process, on the field, with the kids in the classroom.”
BSU administrators had contemplated keeping the “interim” tag on Bolte for the remainder of the 2017 season as well, but BSU athletic director Tracy Dill said that wasn’t ultimately good for the program.
“Quite frankly, we just wanted to get it done,” Dill told the Pioneer. “I kind of mapped out the calendar and whatever I could do, if it was possible, to do it without going into another recruiting cycle with an interim tag, (that) I wanted to avoid.”
The university posted the job in early June and ran a national search, but Dill said Bolte -- aside from being familiar to the players, administrators and alumni -- was the right fit.
“Brent has the passion, but he also has the vision,” Dill said during a press conference Monday. “I like people that challenge you. That’s important as a coach, that they push the needle just a little bit because they want to be the best.
“When I look at our coaching staff now all across the board I don’t see anyone that doesn’t want that. Quite frankly, I think that's a real key to being good. You have to have that drive, and you have to demonstrate that to your players.”
Following Monday’s press conference, Bolte said he still hadn’t had a chance to tell all his players that it was official -- he was receiving texts even while answering questions from the press. However, most of them had an idea.
“I think a lot of the guys thought it was a done deal anyway,” he said. “There were a couple guys texting me during the press conference. I just don’t think it was that big of a deal.
“My biggest thing is always about the guys and the assistant coaches. I’m not a huge ego guy, having the ‘head coach’ part by my name isn’t the biggest part of it. We have a good coaching staff and a good team, and I think we’re going to be pretty darned good.”
The Beavers report to campus Wednesday, Aug. 9, for fall camp. Their first game is Thursday, Aug. 31, at Winona State.