December 11, 2012

Wisconsin Lutheran's only coach steps down

More news about: Wisconsin Lutheran
Dennis Miller's Warriors have gotten him 28 of his 48 career wins in the past five seasons.
Wisconsin Lutheran athletics photo

Fresh off a program-record 7-3 season, 13th-year Wisconsin Lutheran football coach Dennis Miller has decided to step down. He informed the team of the decision in a postseason meeting Tuesday.

Athletic director Skip Noon announced that the team's fifth-year defensive coordinator, Ben Murphy, will be promoted to the role of head coach.

"It's the right time to step down,” said Miller. "The decision is never easy, but we have a great coaching staff including Ben Murphy and Mike Fossum, a tremendous group of players, and the processes in place to keep the program moving forward."

Miller will continue to serve in the college's administration as vice president of student affairs, a position he has held since 2005.

The Warriors went 7-3 this season, including 5-2 for third place in the Northern Athletics Conference. The seven wins are the most in program history, while the five conference victories tie a school record. WLC’s two conference defeats were by a combined 15 points. Wisconsin Lutheran College boasted the top pass defense in NCAA Division III and finished in the top seven in three other statistical categories: total defense (fourth), pass efficiency defense (fifth), and scoring defense (seventh).  

Miller, Wisconsin Lutheran's first and only head football coach, was hired in July 1998, but had to wait two years for the excitement of Saturdays on the sideline while he built the program from scratch.

During the inaugural 2000 season, Miller and the Warriors tasted victory in their first outing: a 14-0 decision Sept. 2 at fellow newbie program Rockford. After two seasons as an independent, the Warriors joined the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association for six seasons (2002-2007) before beginning competition in the current Northern Athletics Conference in 2008.

Twenty-eight of Miller's 48 victories at WLC have come since 2008, including four straight .500-plus seasons. During Miller's last five seasons as head coach, the Warriors finished 21-14 in conference games, including consecutive third-place finishes in the eight-team league. WLC won a program-record six straight games which spanned from 2011 into the 2012 season.

Through 11 seasons of conference competition, Miller mentored 99 players who received all-conference recognition, including 30 first team selections and the Warriors’ first conference player of the year in defensive lineman Kaylan Gaines in 2010.

Before arriving at Wisconsin Lutheran, Miller spent 12 seasons as head coach at NCAA Division II Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D. During his time at Northern State, Miller's football teams won 47 NSIC games – more than any other school. His program was nationally ranked six times and qualified for the national playoffs in 1988. During his 25 years of coaching, Miller amassed a 125-136 record.

“Dennis has done an incredible job of starting the program, building it from nothing to the current state it’s at today,” said Noon. “We thank him for his leadership and continued support of Warriors Athletics.”

As the Warriors’ defensive coordinator for the past five seasons, Murphy has led WLC to the NAC’s top defensive ranking twice (2012, 2009), and the Warriors have ranked no lower than third the other three seasons. Murphy has coached 29 all-conference performers on the defensive side of the ball, including the 2010 NATHC Defensive Player of the Year, Kaylan Gaines.

“We’re excited for Ben to have the opportunity to be our next head football coach,” said Noon. “He’s an incredible recruiter with great leadership skills.”

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