Lester Belding came to Dakota Wesleyan University in 1934 as the head football and basketball coach and the Director of Physical Education. Belding recorded 24 victories in football, including the 1936 South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference championships. Belding’s greatest success came with his basketball teams who won a total of 147 games, ranking him third in all-time DWU coaching victories. Belding never coached a losing season. During his tenure as basketball coach, the Tigers won three conference championships and participated in six National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national tournaments, reaching the quarterfinals in 1939. Belding was well respected by his peers as being a pioneer in coaching. This is reflected by his service on the planning committee that led to the organization of the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball, the forerunner of the NAIA. Belding was the NAIA Dakota District chairman for seven years.
Jim Borsheim became Dakota Wesleyan University’s 12th basketball coach in 1956. By the time he finished his tenure in 1961, Borsheim had established himself, with 70 victories, as the fourth winningest coach in school history. Borsheim’s teams never won less than 10 games in a season and never finished below fifth in the conference race. Borsheim’s 1957 and 1961 teams were conference runners up, battling down to the last few games for the championships. Borsheim’s coaching ability got the most out of his players, and 11 of his players have been inducted into the South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference Athletic Hall of Fame and one has been inducted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame. After leaving Dakota Wesleyan in 1961, Borsheim continued his successful coaching career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha before going into private business.
Larry Buffington is not just one of the most successful track and field coaches in Dakota Wesleyan history; he also had a positive influence on hundreds of student-athletes who were able to call him coach. Buffington was the Tiger’s head track and field coach for 12 years, and an assistant for another two. He led the Dakota Wesleyan track team to the only two conference championships in school history in 1990 and 1991. In both of those years, he was also named the SDIC Track and Field Coach-of-the-Year. Buffington also led the DWU women to four straight second-place finishes in the SDIC, and he coached two NAIA All-Americans and three SDIC record-holders. At the time of his Hall of Fame induction, Buffington’s athletes still held 34 Dakota Wesleyan school records, which is a testament to the lasting greatness of his coaching. Buffington also spent 13 seasons as the Tiger football team’s offensive line coach, and during his tenure the team captured five SDIC Championships, including a perfect 10-0 regular season record and a trip to the NAIA playoffs in 1992. In 2006, Buffington was the first inductee to the Gayville-Volin Athletic Hall of Fame and in 2009 he was named the South Dakota Track and Field Coach-of-the-Year after he coached Gayville-Volin High School to the South Dakota Class “B” Boys State Track and Field Championship.
Richard “Bud” Dougherty
Richard “Bud” Dougherty, considered by many to be one of Dakota Wesleyan University’s greatest and best liked coaches, arrived on campus in 1919, taking over football, basketball, and baseball coaching duties. Dougherty’s coaching methods, style and leadership helped establish one of DWU’s greatest periods in athletic history. His football teams established a record of 38 wins, 20 losses and two ties, ranking him second in a long line of DWU football coaches. Dougherty’s conference record of 28-0-2 has never been equaled and he is tied for first with five conference championships. DWU won two conference championships in basketball during Dougherty’s eight years, and his teams won 71 games and lost 36 games. In 1919 Dougherty led the Tiger baseball team to an undefeated season and a conference championship. As a tribute to this tremondous DWU coach, and athletic scholarship was established in his honor in 1972.
Troy Erickson ‘93
Troy Erickson, one of Dakota Wesleyan University’s most talented track athletes, excelled in hurdles and long jump but participated in many events. Erickson set nine school records, four in indoor track and five in outdoor track. His rebounds include two in the long jump, three in the hurdles and four relays. In 1990 and 1991, Erickson led DWU’s track team to the South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference championship, the first time for such a feat in the school’s long history of athletic excellence, and in 1992 Erickson broke DWU’s longest track record of 35 years, the 110-meter hurdles. That same year his indoor long jump of 23’3 1/2” gave him a third place finish in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national indoor track meet and All-American status. Erickson’s outdoor jump at the 1992 conference meet of 23’9 ¼” broke the 61-year-old SDIC meet record set by Smokey Joe Mendel. Erickson was named the 1992 SDIC Most Valuable Track Athlete. After graduation in 1993, Erickson spent five years coaching cross-country and track at DWU.
John Hartung assumed DWU’s track and cross-country coaching duties in the fall of 1968. Being a track coach at a university primarily noted for its football and basketball was not an enviable position. However, it did not take long for Hartung’s running enthusiasm to become contagious, and the number of track participants rapidly increased, as did their performances. Hartung’s team placed in the top five in each South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference meets. A third place finish in the 1971 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics District 12 meet broke 16 school records. A total of 50 school records were set during Hartung’s coaching tenure, and 50 of his athletes are in the top 10 for their respective events. Among the athletes Hartung coached 10 are members of the DWU Athletic Hall of Fame. Hartung also established a women’s track team seven years before it became an official school and conference sport. A statement from one of Hartung’s athletes best sums up his ability. “Coach Hartung took a bunch of very average athletes and taught them how to compete, and he was able to motivate them to work and exceed their wildest expectations.”
Connie Nelson Johnson ‘80
Connie Nelson Johnson was a four-year starter on Dakota Wesleyan University’s women basketball team. She became the first woman to score 1,000 career points finishing her senior year with a total of 1,207 career points. Johnson was the Lady Tiger’s career scoring leader until 1991. Johnson also had set a total of 10 school records by the conclusion of her senior year. Johnson was named to the South Dakota Intercollegiate All-Conference team her junior and senior years and won numerous game and tournament awards during that time. Johnson also participated in volleyball and softball. She was a three-year starter in volleyball and a team captain each year. Johnson started on the softball team for two years. After receiving her master’s degree, Johnson returned to DWU as the women’s head basketball and volleyball coach for three years.
Doug Martin came to Dakota Wesleyan in 1968 having already established himself as a very successful basketball coach in the state of South Dakota. Doug finished his coaching career as the second winningest basketball coach in DWU men’s basketball history He coached the DWU men’s basketball program for 17 seasons, leading the Tigers to 252 victories. During his tenure as the head coach, Doug led the Tigers to four conference titles (1990, 1992, 1995, 1997) and four 20-win seasons. He led the 1995 team to the NAIA II National Tournament. Doug was named the SDIC Men’s Basketball Coach-of-the-Year in 1990, then again after the 1999 season. He was named the GPAC Coach-of-the-Year in 2001. Doug also received honors as the South Dakota Men’s College Coach-of-the-Year twice, and was recognized as the South Dakota College Coach-of-the-Year in 1990. While coaching at DWU, Coach Martin had 11 players earn NAIA All-American honors, including the NAIA Player-of-the-Year. He also coached 27 players who earned All-Conference honors in the SDIC and 11 players who earned All-Conference honors in the GPAC. Off the court, 24 of his players were named NAIA All-America Scholar-Athletes. Doug also served as the director of athletics in the DWU athletic department for 10 years. In all, Martin coached basketball for 46 years and finished his career with 536 wins as a head coach.
Bob McCardle took over the football and basketball head coaching and athletic director duties at Dakota Wesleyan University in 1949. At 23-years-old, McCardle was the youngest coach in the South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference and was not much older than the players he coached. McCardle coached football for two years and basketball for five years. Although his basketball teams did not secure any conference championship, McCardle’s teams were runners-up three times, and none of his teams finished lower than fourth. At the time McCardle left DWU in 1954, he was the fourth winningest basketball coach with 56 victories. McCardle continued his career in coaching and education and returned to Mitchell in 1965 as the Superintendent of Schools. McCardle has received many awards and honors for his dedication to the youth of Mitchell and the field of education. McCardle was inducted into the SDIC Hall of Fame in 1988. McCardle coached 11 players that are members of the DWU Athletic Hall of Fame.
Dan Moran ‘62
Dan Moran transferred to Dakota Wesleyan University from Northern State University in 1959. He was a Tiger football letterman for three years. After graduating in 1962, Moran became one of South Dakota’s most winningest and best-respected high school basketball coaches. Moran’s career coaching record includes 406 victories and 168 losses. His teams at Stickney, South Dakota, participated in five state “B” tournaments, winning the state championship in 1981. Moran also coached the girl’s basketball team for two years, compiling a 37-2 record and state runner-up honors. Moran remained very loyal to his alma mater during his coaching career and sent DWU numerous outstanding high school players, many whom are members of DWU’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Moran was twice named South Dakota Boys Basketball Coach of the Year and was nominated for National Coach of the Year. Moran is also a member of the South Dakota Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
Ron Parks ‘64
Ron Parks, a four-year offensive center letterman on the Tiger football team, received All-Conference honors in 1963; however, Parks is best remembered as one of Dakota Wesleyan University’s most successful football coaches. Parks returned to his alma mater as head football coach in 1972 and remained head coach until 1977, compiling 27 wins, which was third best in DWU’s history at that time. Parks’ 1976 team won the South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference championship, a feat that had not been accomplished since 1945, and was selected the South Dakota College Team of the Year, only the second DWU team at that time to receive such an honor. This 1976 team, ranked as high as number two in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics ranking polls, finished the season with eight wins and set a single-season record. Parks was selected the 1976 NAIA District 12 Coach of the Year.
Edwin “Red” Thomas ‘47
Athlete 1937-40 & 1946-47
Edwin “Red” Thomas came to Dakota Wesleyan University primarily to play football; however, he showed such excellent athletic skills that he also proved valuable in basketball and track. Thomas played offensive and defensive end in football and was honored by the South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference as an All-Conference selection in 1938, 1939, and 1940. In basketball, Thomas played both forward and center and led the team to two consecutive conference championships and three straight births in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national tournament. After the 1940 basketball season, Thomas joined the United States Army. He returned to DWU in 1946 to complete his degree requirements and stayed at DWU for the next two years, first as an assistant coach and then as head coach of the 1948-1949 basketball team.
Gordon Zapp’s first collegiate head football coaching position began at Dakota Wesleyan University in 1963. By the time he left DWU in 1968, the Tigers had won 21 games, making Zapp the third winningest football coach in school history. His 1964 team’s record of 5-3-1 was the school’s first winning season since 1955. The team repeated with another winning season in 1965, this time winning seven games and losing two games, giving the team a second place finish in the South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference. This marked the first time a DWU football team had won seven games since 1915, making it the second time for such a feat. As a result of this great season, Zapp was named the South Dakota College Coach of the Year. The 1965 backfield are all members of the athletic hall of fame and are considered one of the most outstanding foursomes in DWU’s football history. Eight of Zapp’s players are in DWU’s Hall of Fame and one is a member of the SDIC Hall of Fame. Zapp continued his coaching success at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado before entering private business.