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DWU's Cimpl named GPAC football coach of the year

Dakota Wesleyan University football coach Ross Cimpl directs his team during the Tigers' scrimmage at the beginning of the season at DWU's practice field in Mitchell. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

Dakota Wesleyan University Athletic Director Curt Hart said some people questioned his move in hiring Ross Cimpl as the head football coach two years ago.

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But the second-year head coach has done nothing but improve the Tigers — a big part of why he was named this year’s Great Plains Athletic Conference coach of the year.

“I’m really happy for him and it’s well deserved,” Hart said. “He has a passion for the job and a connection with the kids. They really are followers of him and have bought into his program.”

The award, which was announced Tuesday, is voted on by the conference coaches and Cimpl couldn’t have been more surprised when he heard the news.

“I am very appreciative of the award,” he said. “I just think about our team and coaches and the success we’ve had, and I’m just fortunate to be in the position that gets recognized for that.”

This is the first coaching honor of Cimpl’s career and follows one of the football program’s best seasons. The Tigers finished the season 8-3 overall and 7-2 in the GPAC, marking the third time in the program’s history a team has won eight or more games in a season. The other two were in 1992 and 1976.

Cimpl’s squad finished third in the conference and No. 20 in the NAIA, finishing on a four-game win streak and winning seven of its last eight games.

“We put ourselves in a position to compete for a conference title, and I’m not sure anyone outside of the DWU community thought we could do that,” said Cimpl, whose team had a 6-4 record in 2012, his first year as head coach. “But for the coaches to recognize that we can do that says a lot about this program, and we want to win it. That’s our goal.”

In his two seasons with the Tigers, Cimpl has helped his team to a 14-7 record and set school records for points (329) and total offense (4,547) in a season. This season, DWU upset then-No. 20 Doane College and beat two teams that were receiving votes in the NAIA.

Senior wide receiver Anthony Muilenburg said Cimpl has pointed for the program in the right direction for years to come.

“This is a great award for him,” said Muilenburg, a fifth-year senior. “He’s never satisfied and will continue to strive for progress. There’s been a good foundation set for the program and how he wants his program to be.

“I appreciate everything he’s done for me and DWU football. He is always improving himself as a coach, other coaches and players.”

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.