HEAD COACH BOB NIELSON
Bob Nielson was introduced as the 30th head coach in the history of University of South Dakota football in December of 2015. It is the sixth head coaching stint for Nielson, who has enjoyed success at nearly every level of college football. He is a three-time national coach of the year recipient, a two-time national champion head coach, and the reigning Missouri Valley Football Conference Coach of the Year.
Nielson has been labeled a builder throughout his career and his resume supports the description. He has compiled a 186-80-1 record in 23 seasons as a head coach for five different programs. He’s taken four of those programs to the playoffs within his first four years and captured NCAA Division II national championships with Minnesota Duluth in 2008 and 2010.
Most recently, Nielson served as head coach at Western Illinois University in Macomb for three seasons from 2013-15. He led the Leathernecks to a 7-6 record in 2015 and to the second round of the FCS playoffs. It was the first playoff appearance for the Leathernecks since 2010.
Nielson grew up in Marion, Iowa, and received his bachelor’s degree from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, in 1982. He began his career as an offensive line coach at his alma mater before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 1987.
Ripon College in Wisconsin gave Nielson his first head coaching gig. He was 2-6-1 in his first season and improved to 7-2 in year two. It was the first season the Red Hawks had posted more than four victories in eight years.
Nielson returned to Waverly in 1991 to serve as head coach of the Knights. In 1993, his third season, Wartburg won an Iowa Conference title, Nielson earned his first conference coach of the year award, and the Knights returned to the NCAA Division III playoffs for the first time in 11 years. One year later, Wartburg had its first NCAA playoff victory.
Nielson’s Duluth Dynasty began in 1999. In year three, Duluth made its first postseason appearance by competing in the Mineral Water Bowl in Missouri. The following season, the Bulldogs won the 2002 Northern Sun Championship with a 9-0 record and qualified for the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time.
Duluth was 38-19 in its first five years under Nielson, who turned in his whistle after the 2003 season to serve as the Bulldogs’ athletic director. He remained the AD when he returned to coach the football team in 2008. That year, Duluth earned its first national championship with a 15-0 record. The Bulldogs duplicated the feat in 2010.
Nielson was 100-26 in 10 seasons at Duluth. In his second five-year stint, the program was 62-7 with five NCAA playoff appearances, four NSIC titles and two undefeated seasons. Nielson was named national coach of the year in both championship years and totaled three Northern Sun Coach of the Year awards.
Nielson joined the FCS ranks in 2013 when he made the move to Macomb. The Leathernecks combined for five wins from 2011-12, but progressed to four, five and seven wins in three seasons under Nielson. The Leathernecks featured seven all-MVFC honorees including four in 2015.
Nielson and his wife, Terri, have two daughters, Amanda Taylor and Kasey King, a son, Kyle, and two grandchildren, Cash and Rowan Taylor. Nielson holds a master’s degree from University of Northern Iowa, which he completed in 1988.