LINDSBORG — Former Bethany College head football coach Ted Kessinger has been chosen to be inducted into the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame.
"This honor brings a sense of thankfulness," Kessinger said. "It is a humbling experience. What stands out to me is this honor is an opportunity to represent past coaches and players; to represent Bethany College and Augustana College (S.D.) and all the coaches and players I worked with and played with. The Good Lord surrounded me with quality players and coaches. There is a lot to be thankful for. It is an honor to represent everyone."
Kessinger, a current resident of Lindsborg, is a native of Sioux Falls. He spent 28 seasons at Bethany College, from 1976-2003. He recorded a 219-57-1 record, a .792 win percentage and never had a losing season. He led the Swedes to 16 conference championships, and was named Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year 11 times.
During Kessinger's tenure, the Swedes earned 20 national rankings in the season-ending NAIA Top 25, and made 13 NAIA playoff appearances.
Nearly 400 of Kessinger's players earned All-KCAC honors and 43 were named NAIA All-Americans. Additionally, 49 players were named NAIA Scholar-Athletes.
"The most significant part about coaching is the relationships with players and coaches," Kessinger said. "I hope the players' memories are not about the records and championships; I hope they remember our staff caring about them as people."
When Kessinger retired in 2003, he was the winningest active coach in both victories and winning percentage in the NAIA.
He was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2003, the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Kessinger began his coaching career as an assistant at the University of South Dakota. He then went to Augustana (Ill.) as a football assistant and head wrestling coach, winning five wrestling conference titles in five years. Kessinger returned to Augustana (S.D.) for six years before coming to Bethany.
Kessinger met Bethany College staff member Bill Carlson at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp in Fort Collins, Colo., in 1974. When the head football coach position at Bethany opened, Carlson called Kessinger. After Kessinger came for a visit, and through conversations with President Hahn, Kessinger knew Bethany and Lindsborg was where he was meant to be.
"I had opportunities to look at various different places, but it seemed God's plan for me was to be here at Bethany," Kessinger said. "It was part of my destiny. I believe that strongly. We had good fortune here; we were relatively successful. This was the ideal job; I got to do what I love to do. Recruiting makes a big difference, and I got to bring in my assistant coach Gary Sandbo. Everything fell into place. Most of all, we felt good about raising our children here. Coaching has its ups and downs, but my wife Nancy has been by my side the whole time."
Kessinger, a graduate of Washington High School in 1959 and Augustana College in 1963, was an All-State football player in high school and an All-Conference player in college as a center and linebacker. In addition, he briefly played in the Canadian Football League in 1963.
Kessinger's son, Kent, is also a successful collegiate football coach. Kent is currently in his tenth season at Ottawa University. He has led Ottawa to three KCAC Championships in four years, and its fourth straight NAIA Football Championship Series appearance. Kent is a 1992 graduate of Bethany College, starting every game for a team that won three consecutive conference championships and qualified for the NAIA national playoffs three out of four years.
The South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame announcement came December 10, 2013. Kessinger is among two coaches selected, the second being Mel Tjeerdsma. Also chosen were three former South Dakota State athletes: Jay Dirksen, Herb Bartling and Arnold Johnson. Other honorees are football player Dick Callahan, basketball player Jack Theeler, baseball player Doug Stanford and softball pitcher Paul Ferrie.
The induction takes place April 12, 2014, at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. Ticket information will be released at a later date. Including this class of nine inductees, total membership for the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame is 245.