O’Brien’s strong ties with area high schools is key

The former Hamline athletics director will be the Gophers’ liaison with high schools.

The Gophers football program upgraded its potential to recruit within the state of Minnesota when it announced the official hiring of Dan O’Brien on Monday.

The new director of football operations and high school relations was hired because of his “tremendous coaching ties to the region both as a high school and a college coach” and because of his “experience as a college administrator,” Minnesota’s head football coach Tim Brewster said.

O’Brien steps in to replace Randy Taylor, who left on Feb. 14 after a one-year stint in the position to “pursue other opportunities in private business,” according to the University.

The director of football operations and high school relations’ main task is recruiting, which is believed to be a plus for the Gophers with O’Brien because of his strong ties with many high school coaches within the state of Minnesota.

A 1987 graduate of St. Thomas, O’Brien played football for three seasons. After college, he served as an assistant coach at Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School before moving on to Lakeville High School as an assistant in 1989. He was later named the head football coach at Bemidji High School in 1993.

O’Brien then moved on to the college coaching ranks, working at Concordia-St. Paul University in various capacities from 1995 to 2002, including head football coach and director of athletics. While at Concordia, O’Brien was instrumental in helping the Golden Bears move from the NAIA and the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference to NCAA Div. II and the Northern Sun Conference. 

Most recently serving as Hamline University’s athletics director, he will have a short office move from St. Paul to Minneapolis when he joins Minnesota’s staff on April 1.

During his tenure at Hamline from June 2002 to March 2008, O’Brien was instrumental in turning the Pipers’ athletics program around as the number of student-athletes that competed in the postseason rose from one to 121 while he served as athletic director.

Hamline also claimed two MIAC championships in the past two and a half years, capturing men’s hockey and men’s cross country titles. The men’s cross country program also claimed a NCAA Central Region title.

Under O’Brien’s leadership, 23 Hamline teams qualified for MIAC or national playoff opportunities or finished the regular season in the top four in the conference. In each of the past five years, at least one Hamline program made a national tournament appearance, and in 2006-07 six Hamline athletics teams reached the postseason.

“My five and a half years at Hamline have been wonderful and in many ways it was incredibly difficult to leave,” O’Brien said.

A native of Winthrop, Minn., O’Brien said although he loved his job at Hamline, being a part of the Gophers staff is a dream opportunity that he couldn’t pass up.

“With the new stadium opening for the 2009 season and the recently signed nationally ranked recruiting class,” he said, “I don’t think there has been a better time to get involved with Gopher football.”