Under the masterful guidance of 20th-year head coach Jeff Tesch, the Bemidji State football program has undergone a remarkable metamorphosis, transforming from annual doormat to title contender.
Tesch has posted a 119-87 record at BSU and led the Beavers to a school-record streak of 10 consecutive winning seasons stretching from 1998-2007. During that historic streak his teams posted four of the eight, eight-win seasons for a program now in its 88th season of competition. He is the only coach in Bemidji State history to oversee back-to-back eight-win seasons, and his 2000 and 2006 teams set matching school records of nine wins.
Tesch’s success at BSU has been remarkable. Upon being named BSU’s 15th field general in May 1996, he inherited a program which had won just 16 games in its previous eight seasons. Entering 2014, he has averaged six wins a season and his 116 wins represent more than 34 percent of the program’s all-time victories. In fact, Tesch’s 116 wins in 18 years account for more than the number of victories garnered by the Bemidji State program in the 36 full seasons prior to his arrival — 111.
Tesch has protected home field advantage during his tenure. The Beavers have posted a 63-27 record at Chet Anderson Stadium. BSU has recorded three undefeated home records — 1998, 2000 and 2005 — and posted an 11-year streak of winning seasons at “The Chet” from 2002-2012 (45-13 during the run).
Leading the Way
Tesch’s 18-year run at Bemidji State has him at the top of every category for coaching achievement.
He further cemented his legendary status by becoming Bemidji State’s all-time leader in coaching victories. He posted his 53rd win at BSU with a 28-20 victory over Minnesota Crookston Oct. 16, 2004, moving him past H. “Jolly” Erickson, who won 52 games during a 17-year career at BSU from 1938-54.
He reached the 100 wins plateau in grand fashion Sept. 10, 2011 at then-No. 16 Augustana College. The Beavers were able to score a touchdown in the first overtime session to secure a 30-27 upset of the Vikings for the team’s first victory against a nationally-ranked opponent since 2009 and their first overtime win since 2002.
Despite a slow start, more recently, victories have accumulated quickly for Tesch and his teams. He won 30 games at BSU in 57 career starts, reaching the plateau two games faster than Chet Anderson (59), and he won his 40th game in year six. The other men to reach that plateau at BSU did so in careers of 10 and 17 years. And when Tesch became BSU’s all-time winningest head coach in 2004, his ninth year at the helm, he reached the 53-win plateau eight years faster than Erickson.
In 2002, Tesch toppled two significant coaching milestones at Bemidji State, becoming just the third BSU mentor to win 40 career games and the program’s all-time leader in victories over conference opponents.
In addition, Tesch’s 2006 squad established a school single-season record for conference wins with just the sixth perfect season in NSIC history at 8-0. His 1999, 2000 and 2002 teams held the previous program mark as each piled up six wins. Prior to Tesch’s arrival, no BSU team had ever won more than five conference games.
Tesch became the record holder in games coached when he roamed the sidelines of his 112th game during the 2006 season. The 2013 campaign marked his 18th season at the Bemidji State helm, establishing BSU’s record for seasons coached and Tesch is one of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference’s coaching deans, sharing the title of longest tenured coach with Winona State’s Tom Sawyer, who enters his 19th year with the Warriors.
At Bemidji State, Tesch has produced 10 All-Americans, more than 30 all-region players and one NFL undrafted free agent signee (Brian Leonhardt, Oakland Raiders, 2013). In his 29 years of coaching, Tesch has watched 16 players earn All-America selections and guided five NFL draft picks.
Since 1998, three student-athletes have gone on to earn four Academic All-America honors, six players have racked up eight academic all-district awards, more than 100 student-athletes have been named Academic All-NSIC and one has earned the NSIC Myles Brand All-Academic with Distinction Award (graduating senior with 3.75 or higher).
At Bemidji State
After compiling just two wins in each of his first two seasons, Tesch led the Beavers to a 6-4 record in 1998 to post the team’s first record above .500 since 1986. BSU finished 4-2 against the NSIC, marking the first time since John Peterson’s 1984 team (4-2) the Beavers won as many as four league games. The quick turnaround to the Bemidji State football program earned the respect of the league, as Tesch’s colleagues named him NSIC Coach of the Year.
The Beavers opened strong in 1999, serving notice that the successes of 1998 would not be a one-season flash-in-the-pan. BSU won its first three games, its best start since also opening 3-0 in 1985, en route to what would become just the second eight-win season in school history. The Beavers finished 8-3 overall and 6-2 in league play to establish a program record for conference wins in a season.
Then in 2000, a record-setting offense helped propel BSU to arguably the finest single-season performance in school history. Tesch’s 2000 squad became just the third team in school history - and first since 1944 - to open a season 4-0. The hot start propelled the Beavers to a school-record nine-win season, breaking the previous mark of eight wins set in 1984 and equalled in 1999.
BSU’s achievements did not go unnoticed on the national scene. The Beavers finished ninth in the NCAA Midwest Regional Poll, used to select participants in the 16-team Division II national playoffs, and were 28th in the final AFCA Coaches Poll.
BSU’s breakout 2000 season sent it into 2001 as a favorite for the NSIC championship, and with expectations also came national attention. The Beavers were ranked 23rd in Lindy’s pre-season Division II national poll.
The 2001 edition of the Beavers didn’t quite live up to the preseason expectations, going 7-4 after they finished the season winning four of five.
An 0-3 start and a season-ending injury to running back Eddie Acosta, a consensus pre-season All-America pick, derailed BSU’s championship plans for the 2002 season early on. The early struggles didn’t put the Beavers down, as Tesch rallied the troops with perhaps his finest coaching job since coming to Bemidji, as Bemidji State closed the campaign 6-2 in their final eight games.
BSU remained a competitor in the NSIC in the early 2000’s and continued the streak of above .500 play. The Beavers recorded seven wins in 2003 and 2005 to sandwich the program’s fourth and Tesch’s third eight-plus win season in 2004, as that squad went 8-3.
Bemidji State hadn’t hoisted hardware since sharing the Northern Intercollegiate Conference (NIC) title in 1959. That changed in 2006 when the Beavers posted a perfect 8-0 NSIC record to win the school’s first outright conference title. Tesch also led the team to its first-ever postseason appearance as the Beavers drew Pittsburg State in the Mineral Water Bowl. The 9-3 finish in 2006 tied the program record for wins with the 2000 team and extended the school-record streak of consecutive winning seasons to nine. For his successes, Tesch was voted as the 2006 NSIC Coach of the Year while a school-record 16 players earned some form of All-NSIC honor.
Since the championship, the Beavers have found it hard to earn a return trip to the postseason, falling just a win or two short each season.
The 2007 Beavers posted a 7-4 record after the championship season to lengthen the streak of winning seasons to 10. The run ended in 2008 when BSU posted a 5-6 record, but continued its strong tradition of protecting home field by posting a 4-1 record.
The 2009 season started a new streak and marked the fifth time under Tesch the Beavers met or surpassed the eight-win plateau (8-3). BSU posted a 7-3 record in NSIC play, finishing third. The Beavers played four nationally-ranked opponents, receiving votes themselves nationally during the season, going 2-2 while losing a heartbreaker to then-No. 7 and defending national champion Minnesota Duluth, 35-34 at Chet Anderson Stadium.
In 2010, the Beavers went 7-4 overall and 6-4 in the NSIC for the 12th winning season under Tesch. All four BSU losses came to postseason participants, including the eventual national champion, Minnesota Duluth.
The 2011 squad posted an 8-3 overall and 7-3 NSIC record for the eighth, eight-win season in program history and sixth under Tesch. The team started the season 6-1 - the best seven-game stretch to open a season since 2000 - to crack the nation’s top 25 for the first time since 2007. Back-to-back losses on the road crushed hopes of an NCAA appearance or bowl game, but the season wasn’t a total loss. BSU closed the home season Nov. 5 with a 19-14 upset of No. 6 St. Cloud State - a victory versus BSU’s highest ranked opponent ever.
After starting 1-0 in 2012, the Beavers fell in three straight contests entering NSIC North play. Bemidji State could have packed it up at that point, but posted a strong finish and went 6-1 in the North to share a piece of the NSIC North Division Title - its first division championship since the league moved to the format in 2008.
The 2013 season started with a dramatic, comeback win at Winona State, as the Beavers erased a 27-3 halftime deficit and beat the Warriors, 34-27 in overtime. The win versus the nationally-ranked Warriors would be the first of just three, as BSU finished the season 3-8, marking the first of just four seasons under Tesch the Beavers failed to post a winning record. The Beavers did protect home field on homecoming, downing Southwest Minnesota State in a shootout, 41-40, to earn the right to celebrate with their traditional post game dip in Lake Bemidji.
Prior to Bemidji State
Before being named Bemidji State’s 15th head coach, Tesch spent 11 years as an assistant for annual NCAA Division II playoff contender North Dakota. There, he assumed assistant head coaching duties in 1995. The Fighting Sioux captured at least a share of the North Central Conference championship three consecutive seasons before Tesch’s departure in 1996. In addition to coaching duties, Tesch helped the Sioux achieve a 92 percent graduation rate while serving as academic advisor.
Prior to his UND appointment, Tesch spent one year as an assistant at Montana State, followed by a two-year stint as offensive coordinator at Central Missouri State. A graduate of Moorhead State (Minn.) University, Tesch was a free-agent signee with the Atlanta Falcons and inducted into the MSU Hall of Fame in the spring of 1998. In 1977, Tesch was the NCAA Division II receiving champion and left the Dragons as the single-game and single-season records for receptions.
Tesch is active with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), serving as a faculty advisor at Bemidji State.
Jeff and his wife Susan have two children — daughter Tara and son Vincent.
By The Numbers
|As a Head Coach
||Jeff Tesch vs NSIC
||Jeff Tesch vs Nonconference
| NSIC O/D*
1996 Bemidji State 2-8 1-5 6th
1997 Bemidji State 2-8 1-5 t6th
1998 Bemidji State 6-4 4-2 3rd
1999 Bemidji State 8-3 6-2 t2nd
2000 Bemidji State 9-2 6-2 2nd
2001 Bemidji State 7-4 5-4 4th
2002 Bemidji State 6-5 6-3 4th
2003 Bemidji State 7-4 5-3 4th
2004 Bemidji State 8-3 5-2 t3rd
2005 Bemidji State 7-3 4-3 t4th
2006 Bemidji State 9-3 8-0 1st
2007 Bemidji State 7-4 6-3 4th
2008 Bemidji State 5-6 4-6 t8/t3
2009 Bemidji State 8-3 7-3 t3/3
2010 Bemidji State 7-4 6-4 t5/3
2011 Bemidji State 8-3 7-3 t4/t4
2012 Bemidji State 7-4 7-4 t5/t1
2013 Bemidji State 3-8 3-8 6/t7
2014 Bemidji State 3-8 3-8 t13/t4
Total 119-87 .578
vs NSIC 94-70 .573
* North and South Divisions began in 2008
|Augustana (joined league in 2008)
Minnesota-Morris (former member)
Minnesota State (joined league in 2008)
Minot State (joined league in 2012)
Northern State (S.D.)
Sioux Falls (joined league in 2012)
Southwest Minnesota State
St. Cloud State (joined league in 2008)
Wayne State (Neb.)
Chadron State (Neb.)
Mayville State (N.D.)
Minot State (N.D.)
Pittsburg State (Kan.)
St. John’s (Minn.)
St. Thomas (Minn.)
Southwest Minnesota State
|By the Numbers
|Seasons Coached: 19
Games Coached: 206
Career Record: 119-87
NSIC Record: 94-70
Nonconference Record: 25-17
Home Record: 65-31
Winning Seasons: 14
Eight-Win Seasons: 6
Highest NSIC finish: 1st (2006)
NSIC Coach of the Year: 1998, 2006
First-Team All-NSIC Players: 60
Total All-NSIC Selections: 200
NSIC Offensive Player of the Year: 1
NSIC Defensive Players of the Year: 2
NSIC Glen Galligan Award winners: 2
All-Region Selections: 35
All-America Selections: 12
Academic All-District V Selections: 10
Academic All-America Selections: 4
NFF Hampshire Honor Society Selections: 16
Southwest Minnesota State (11/7/98)
Northern State (9/29/01)
Wisconsin-River Falls (9/18/04)
Minnesota Crookston (10/16/04)
Minnesota Crookston (10/15/05)
Concordia-St. Paul (11/4/06)
Northern State (9/27/08
Augustana College (9/10/11)
Northern State (10/13/12)
a- fastest BSU head coach to 30 wins
b- BSU career record
St. John’s (Minn.) (9/7/96)
Winona State (10/3/98)
Minnesota State (8/28/03)
Concordia-St. Paul (9/24/05)
Wayne State (10/13/07)
at Minnesota State (9/8/12)
at U-Mary (10/4/14)
a- BSU career record