Football's Czech resigns, search for new coach begins

By Nate Oglesbee

Dennis Czech ’83, has been involved with Macalester for the better part of his life. He grew up nearby and lives just blocks from campus. He was a standout running back and baseball player during his time at Mac, and is a member of Macalester’s Athletic Hall of Fame. For the last eight years, he has been the head football coach.

And Czech’s association with Mac will soon change once again. Last Tuesday Czech announced his resignation from his coaching position, effective at the end of this season.

“You know when the time is right. And the time was right for me,” Czech said. “My family is my number one priority, I’ve always been that way. And I felt that the program; with a new AD [Athletic Director], a new facility coming in, a new field, I thought that it’d probably have a better chance with new blood, new enthusiasm, new ideas.”

Coach Czech came to the decision earlier this year, as Mac struggled against, and lost to, some opponents he thought the team had a chance to beat. Those struggles continued last Saturday against Hamline University, as Mac lost the 106th meeting of the two rivals 54-0. The team has one more game Saturday, at Ripon College, where the Scots will seek to avoid their first no-win season under Czech.

Czech, despite his best efforts, has not been able to put Mac into a winning situation. Over the past eight seasons under him, the Scots have gone 13-63. The team’s best year under Czech was in 2002, when they went 5-5.

That was Macalester’s first year playing an independent schedule, having decided to drop out of MIAC play the year before. There was a lot of thought given to dropping football in its entirety, but the campus community rallied behind the team then, and the team was kept. Since that decision, which then-President Micheal McPherson described as a “rebirth of football at Macalester,” little improvement has been made, as the team continues to struggle to field a normal-sized squad and compete with comparison schools.

“Honestly, I think I carried it through some of the toughest times this school has ever seen,” Czech said. “Maybe my calling was to carry it through these extremely difficult times, and get it to survive. And now, we had a nice recruiting class last year. With some of the changes taking place, I think it is ready to move forward.”

That process of moving forward has begun. According to Athletic Director Travis Feezell, the position has been advertised internally already, and has now been opened up to national advertising.

“The crucial element for me has to do with fit. I think there has to be recognition of the unique characteristics of Macalester,” Feezell said. “And then, what falls from that is appropriate recruiting strategies that fit with Macalester. Appropriate management of programs that fit with Macalester. Fit is paramount, and all things fall [into place] if you get the right fit.”

Czech said he thinks a young, energetic candidate would be the way to go. That is a sentiment echoed by football alum Adam Johnson ’03. “I think MAC needs to do a legitimate national search and find a guy who fits three criteria,” Johnson said. “One, he comes from a winner. Two, he’s a fantastic recruiter. Three, he knows as little about Mac’s history as possible.”

Feezell hopes to hire a new coach by early December, to help with recruiting for the next year and help get a staff together. Some of the ongoing recruitment duties will fall to other current football staff, who could also stay on if the new head coach so desires.

For Czech, the resignation does not mark the end of his close ties to Macalester. He has promised to still be at games, supporting Mac and its athletes.

“I’ve been here a long time; my heart is still with the program and everything. But I’m tired. And I’ve been fighting these battles for a long time, and it was time.