MOORHEAD — After Concordia had its football awards banquet in mid-December, three veteran assistant coaches met with Cobbers head coach Terry Horan.

Longtime coaches Dale Hertel, Dan Kostich and John Marsh told Horan they were going to retire. Horan said the timing was by design.

“They knew I would say something at the awards banquet about them,” said Horan, who completed his 18th season as Cobbers head coach last fall. “They didn’t want me to say anything. They wanted it to be about the team.”

Kostich, Hertel and Marsh had a combined 57 years on the Cobbers staff and more than a 130 years of combined football coaching. Horan said that experience has been invaluable, especially during his early years as a college head coach.

“For a young coach like me coming into the college ranks, they were extremely valuable and very loyal,” Horan said. “You can always count on them. They’ve seen about everything. … That’s not easy to replace. I don’t know if you can.”

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Horan said he plans to replace all three positions on his staff and the goal is to have the new assistants in place by mid-February. Kostich, who coached 23 seasons with the Cobbers, was the running game coordinator and offensive line coach. Hertel, who spent 22 seasons on staff, was the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Marsh, who was on staff for 12 season, was the receivers coach. All three had made their marks on the high school football scene before taking jobs on the Concordia staff.

Hertel played quarterback for the Cobbers in the late 1960s.

“They’ve forgot more football than I’ll ever know,” Horan said. “Those guys are legends.”

Aaron Willits, who has been the co-offensive coordinator, will remain offensive coordinator next fall, entering his ninth season. Kyle Bakken will remain defensive coordinator, entering his 12th season next fall.

Horan said Hertel, Kostich and Marsh are going to be hard to replace.

“They are going to be dearly missed and their experience is going to be sorely missed. Those guys were grinders,” Horan said. “They were really good mentors. I always could count on them. It won’t be the same. It’s going to be hard to find that experience.

"I knew they would all three go out together. I knew this day would come."