They retired from the Concordia College football program in December without the fanfare of getting a facility named after them. You know, like Jake Christiansen Stadium or Bucky Burgau Baseball Field.
OK, maybe there will be the Dan Kostich Blocking Sled. Or how about the Dale Hertel 3-ring Binder Playbook? May I present to you the John Marsh Agility Cones, fresh and shiny orange.
Kostich was the offensive line coach. Hertel was an offensive coordinator and Marsh the receivers coach. Combined, the three Cobber assistants coached various levels of football for a combined 139 years.
They got headlines in the high school ranks: Hertel coaching eight state championship teams at Fargo South and Kostich won one Minnesota state title at Moorhead High. Marsh was Hertel’s trusty assistant at South for so many years.
“Forty-eight years of coaching,” Hertel said. “Every fall is taken up getting ready for the next one and the next one. You like to think it’s routine but it’s always a new challenge. There are a lot of factors but I haven’t had a fall off in 48 years.”
It’s not as if he’ll be sitting in a rocking chair watching ESPN every Saturday. He has 11 grandchildren that consists of five hockey players, two soccer players and a basketball player. There are concerts and other kid activities for grandpa.
By next November, he may consider grinding in the MIAC a vacation compared to that.
“When you retire, you have a list of things to do that you forever put off and put off,” Hertel said. “And now it looks like I’ll have more to do than time to do it, I’m afraid.”
The three have been intertwined forever. Hertel started in Ortonville, Minn., in 1971. He moved to South in 1976, where Marsh joined him as an assistant in 1978, when the Bruins won their first state championship in school history. Marsh and Kostich knew each other in college at Moorhead State. At one point, Marsh and Kostich coached ninth-grade football teams against each other.
Hertel’s South teams faced Kostich’s Moorhead teams eight times. Appropriately, they each won four. Kostich coached in the Moorhead High system for 22 years and has been at Concordia the last 23. Not once, in all his 46 years, did Kostich ever lose four games in a row.
“With Dale and John, that’s probably as many games as they lost in 10 years at South,” Kostich said.
Cobber head coach Terry Horan will in all probability replace the three with younger coaches. It’s the way the game is going across the country.
The fact that Hertel, Kostich and Marsh kept the coaching mojo going all these years is almost an emotional marvel. This isn’t chess.
“It’s all about working with people, how do you replace that?” Marsh said.
All three say the toughest part is leaving the underclassmen. But at some point, you have to leave the underclassmen.
“You feel like you’re leaving them high and dry,” Hertel said. “I’ll miss it.”
Now was the right time, however.
“It’s just time to change,” Marsh said.
So what’s next? Marsh is looking forward to attending other games. He can’t remember the last time he’s been to a Bison game. He grew up a Nebraska fan. Maybe that will be a destination.
Kostich’s son, Shawn Kostich, is an assistant football coach at the University of North Dakota. Hertel’s son, Jeff Hertel, coaches high school football in Roseville, Minn.
All three former Cobbers coaches may be in the stands next fall. Whether they act like a fan is another matter. Moreover, they may not know how to act like a fan. For the last combined 139 years, it’s been all about coaching.
“I guess as an old coach, you’re always coaching,” Kostich said. “It’s just a matter of where you’re standing.”