For over 2 decades, one constant on the sidelines for the Bemidji State Football program has been the presence of Coach Rich Jahner. Entering his 22nd season with the Beavers, Jahner has served many roles for the Beavers, including the last 18 as Associate Head Coach. Jahner was hired as the defensive coordinator in 1996 and also coached linebackers his first season. The following fall after his first season in 1996, Jahner switched to coaching the defensive backs and has overseen the defensive secondary ever since.
In 2016, safety Damon Benham became the third Jahner-coached defense back to earn All-American honors. In 2011, 3-time all-conference safety Brody Scheff earned 1st Team All-American accolades and was named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Defensive Player of the Year. In 2008, Terrell Phelps garnered the the All-American distinction as a cornerback. As a recruiter, Jahner signed 5 athletes that went on to earn All-American honors: Damon Behnam, DB, 2016; Zach Pulkinen, P, 2013; Jake Anderson, LB, 2009; Terrell Phelps, CB, 2008; and Eddie Acosta, RB, 2000, 2001.
Under Jahner’s guidance, 18 defensive backs have earned All-NSIC honors: 2016 - Gunner Olszewski, Damon Benham, Kameel Al-Khouri; 2015 - Gunner Olszewski, Damon Benham; 2014 - Troy Beckett, Scott Christensen and Dylan Valentine; 2013 - Scott Christensen; 2012- Charlie Hrdlicka; 2011 - Brody Scheff, Dusty Sluzewicz; 2010 - Brody Scheff; 2009 - Brody Scheff; 2008 - Terrell Phelps, Jason Kunz; 2007 - Jeremiah Johnson, Terrell Phelps; 2004 - Torry Joubert; 2003 - Marty Humeniuk, Kurtis Woodard; 2002 - Marty Humeniuk, Tom Maus; 1999 - Rob Sutera, Ryan Fritts.
As Defensive Coordinator, Jahner ushered in the ”Gang Green” era of Beaver Defense, which gained national prominence as Beaver Football entered the 21st century. The 2000 campaign opened with a 25-0 win over Minot State University, marking the first shutout pitched by BSU since 1986. The Beavers then posted a second shutout in their record-shattering 70-0 win over University of Minnesota-Morris, marking the first time the BSU defense had posted two shutouts in the same season since ‘85. The Beavers closed the 2004 season with back-to-back shutouts, blanking Minnesota State University Moorhead and Wayne State College to record the program’s second consecutive shutouts since 1985.
In 2004, Jahner’s Gang Green defense assembled one of BSU’s best defensive seasons in nearly 20 years. BSU finished second in the NSIC, allowing just 22.0 points per game - the lowest by a BSU defense since 1986. BSU also led the NSIC in takeaways with 32, scoring defense (18.4) and turnover margin (+1.14). The success of the 2004 team set the stage for big things to come.
In 2005, BSU linebacker coach Brent Bolte joined Jahner as Co-Defensive Coordinator, and the Jahner/Bolte coaching duo launched one of the most successful eras of defensive football in school history. En route to its first conference championship in over 40 years, the 2006 edition of the BSU Gang Green led the entire nation in run defense, allowing just over 50 yards per contest to also establish a BSU record. Included in the run defense, dominance was holding the then-No. 18 Winona State Warriors to an unbelievable -37 yards rushing. One of the most impressive accomplishments was holding opponents to less than 25 total rushing yards an incredible seven times. The 2006 edition was also ranked top 20 in four other national categories, sacks (3rd, 3.3 s/g), interceptions (8th, 22), total defense (16th, 251 yds./g) and turnovers (19th, 20).
In 2007, the Beavers led the NSIC against the run for the second consecutive season, allowing 71.5 yards per game to rank sixth nationally. Five times BSU held opponents to less than 40 yards on the ground. The Beavers finished second in the NSIC giving up just over 300 yards of total offense per game while opponents scored just 17.2 points per contest against the Gang Green defense that ranked 12th in the nation. During this era, defensive tackle Zach Stafford was twice named NSIC Defensive Player of the Year.
The level of dominance by the Gang Green defense continued from 2008-2012, as 27 players earned All-NSIC accolades. A Beaver student-athlete was named First-Team All-NSIC nine times, while 12 all-region and three All-American awards were given to BSU defenders.
The Beavers continued to rank in the top 20 nationally in total defense: 2009 (14th), 2010 (18th) and 2012 (15th), thanks to a stingy run defense. The 2009 squad finished second in the NSIC and seventh in the nation for rush defense, allowing 81 yards per game. The defense held its opponent to under 70 yards four times, including a shut-down performance against MSU Moorhead that saw the Dragons go backwards on the ground with -11 yards rushing. The 2011 squad gave up 110.6 yards per game to the rush and finished the season No. 18 nationally. In 2012, the Beavers allowed 102.8 rushing yards per game to rank second in the conference and 15th nationally.
The Gang Green defense has also taken pride in not allowing its opponent to put points on the scoreboard. From the 2009 through 2012 seasons, the Beavers held their opponents to less than 19 points per game. The 2011 squad highlighted BSU’s scoring defense, as they allowed just 16.0 points per game to rank third in the nation and establish a Tesch-era record. The 2010 team finished 16th in the nation in scoring defense (16.9 ppg) and the 2012 squad closed the campaign 18th nationally (18.7 ppg).
In 2014, with the reigns of the defense transferred to the capable hands of Coach Bolte, Jahner began a new focus of his efforts to player development and community outreach. Jahner branded the Beaver Football’s Good Works program to help integrate and build relationships between the Beaver players and Bemidji community. One outcome of the program is the partnership forged with the pediatric wing of Sanford Health Services, with BSU players regularly visiting with young patients to offer support and encouragement. Jahner, a Make-A-Wish© Wish Granter, has also organized several special events for local children in coordination with the NCAA’s “Week of Wishes” campaign. Jahner also founded a Bemidji-area chapter of All Pro Dads, a national program designed to encourage father involvement in the lives of their children, family and communities. Tony Dungy serves as the national spokesman for the All Pro Dad program.
In 2015, Gang Green boasted a strong pass defense that ranked seventh in the conference by allowing just 234.7 passing yards per game under Coach Jahner. Bemidji State allowed the second least passing touchdowns in the conference and intercepted 15 passes over the season. Under the tutelage of Coach Jahner, freshman cornerback Gunner Olszewski recorded seven interceptions and led the team with 85 total tackles. Olszewski also won multiple awards for the 2015 season, including NSIC Newcomer of the Year, 2015 NSIC Division All-Conference First Team Defense and D2Football.com Defensive Player of the Week (11/4/15). Another one of Jahner's defensive backs, Damon Benham, intercepted three passes along with recording 55 tackles on his way to being named to the All-Conference Second Team Defense. The defensive backs also boasted off the field excellence with Evan Tompkins being named to the 2015 Fall Academic All-NSIC Team.
In 2016, the Gang Green got even better as they led the NSIC in interceptions with 18 and finished second in the conference in turnovers forced (27), pass defense efficiency (114.7) and passing yards per attempt (6.3). This helped to lead the Beavers to a program record 9 wins overall including a victory in the Mineral Water Bowl; the first postseason win in program history. Coach Jahner also helped defensive backs Damon Benham and Gunner Olszewski to the Conference Commissioner’s Association (CCA) All-Super Region Three Team as well as Benham also being named to 2016 Don Hansen NCAA Division II All-Super Region Three squad after he led the team with 7 interceptions to go along with 71 tackles and 15 passes defensed. Olszewski meanwhile led the team in tackles with 85 for the second consecutive year to go along with 3 interceptions. Off the field, defensive back Evan Tompkins was once again named to the Fall Academic All-NSIC Team.
A member of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), Jahner brings 25 years experience as a specialist in molding young men at the collegiate level. He was selected to coach in the 1996 National Collegiate All-Star Game in Louisville, Ky. and in 2008 he was nominated for the AFCA National Assistant Coach of the Year award.
In addition to his coaching duties at Bemidji State Jahner has been active in coaching clinics and football camps around the region. He has presented at the American Football Monthly University (AFMU) Clinic, the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic and the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Clinic. Jahner has been involved in the University of Minnesota Football Coaching Clinic, the University of Nebraska Camp and the North Dakota State University Football Camp for the last seven years. Jahner has been a regular presenter at the Arizona Football Coaches Association Convention since 2012.
Prior to his appointment at Bemidji State, Jahner coached the linebackers and defensive backs at Lindenwood University (Mo.) (1994-95), which followed a stint as the defensive coordinator for Valley City State University (N.D.) (1992-93). His first college coaching assignment came in 1990 when he coached the defensive line at Central Missouri State University (1990-92).
A Regent, N.D., native, Jahner is a 1986 graduate of Minot State University with a degree in math-computer science. He earned his master's degree from Central Missouri State in 1992 with a degree in physical education-exercise science.
Jahner and his wife Sheri reside in Bemidji. Their family consists of son Trace, daughter-in-law Carly, grandkids Taedum, Beckham and Baya (Phoenix, Ariz.) and daughter Maris, who is attending graduate school in St. Cloud, Minn.