A football coach who has coached one Heisman Trophy winner and one quarterback who went on to win a BCS national championship has been recommended to take over the reins at Rapid City Stevens, it was announced late Thursday afternoon.
And he’s also a former Rapid City Central head coach.
Steve Svendsen, who coached Central from 1999 to 2007, will take over from Scott Hagen, who coached the Raiders for six seasons through 2018. Stevens finished 1-8 in 2018.
Svendsen spent eight years at Central and had an 8-4 record in his final season, leading the Cobblers to the semifinals of the Class 11AA playoffs for the first time in school history. The solid season ended with a 41-34 loss at defending state champion Sioux Falls O'Gorman.
He had a career record of 30-54 at Central, including a 17-16 mark over his final three seasons.
A Eureka native, Svendsen is entering his 34th year of coaching football this fall, 22 years as a head coach.
“Coach Svendsen brings vast football coaching experience and knowledge to the position,” said Stevens activities director Jared Vasquez in a release. “He is committed to leading and mentoring students as an educator and coach. He has been an assistant coach at both the high school and college levels. He has been a high school head coach for a major portion of his coaching career.”
Svendsen said he is anxious about returning to Rapid City and building the Stevens program. He said his return is a good opportunity to get back to South Dakota.
“It’s about your family and your friends that you have been around, that you’ve worked around,” he said. “It was time. I wanted to make a change and I wanted to get back.”
When Svendsen and his wife, Robyn, saw the opening at Stevens, he said he knew he had to give it a shot.
“We sat and talked about it right away,” he said. “She knew I was excited about it. Really, the only place we could move back to in South Dakota was Rapid City. We both said, ‘Let’s do it.’ We’re both happy about coming back and being a part of a community that we have been a part of before. It’s a good community, and I know Rapid City Stevens is a place of great tradition academically and athletically."
Not only is Svendsen and his wife coming back to South Dakota, he is returning to the Stevens versus Central rivalry.
Only this time, he’ll be wearing blue, instead of red.
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“It’s a fun rivalry, it’s a good rivalry,” he said. “The Rapid City community is very supportive. I’m happy and excited to get going. I know there have been a bunch of kids waiting for quite a while to get this process going. I can’t wait to meet them and to meet the staff.
“It’s about building those relationships. That’s what I want to do and that’s what I want to accomplish with this program — establish relationships and teach the kids more than just football. There’s more important things than X’s and O’s, but don’t get me wrong, I want to win. I want to establish a good foundation and I want to do the things that are necessary to build this program."
Svendsen said that anytime you come into a program, a new coach has to establish his identity. He said he is not going to try to be someone that he is not and he wants to establish the identity he wants for this football team.
He said his players will know that he is a genuine person.
“I will coach them and I will teach them," he said. "It is important working with kids today that they see that you are sincere, that you are honest working with them and trying to get them to a different level than where they are at right now. That is not just on the football field, but that is preparing them for life as well.”
Svendsen started his coaching career at Aberdeen Central High School as an assistant football coach from 1985 to 1987.
He then coached at the University of Houston during the time of the “Run-N-Shoot’ era from 1988 to 1992 under Jack Pardee and John Jenkins. Andre Ware was the Heisman Trophy winner during his time there.
After being at the University of Houston, he went back to South Dakota to become the head football coach at Aberdeen Central from 1992 to 1997. Under his tenure, he led the Golden Eagles to the quarterfinals in 1995, 1997 and to the semifinals in 1996.
From 1993-1995, he coached Josh Heupel, who was an eventual national championship quarterback for the University of Oklahoma in 2000, and is the current head coach at the University of Central Florida. He was selected as the Region 1 Coach of the Year in 1995. In 1998, He went back to the college ranks and coached the quarterbacks at Northern State University for one year.
He was honored with South Dakota’s GDC Coach of the Year in 2007 and South Dakota’s Region 3 Coach of the Year. From Central, Svendsen went to Magnolia, Texas to become their offensive coordinator in 2007 and stayed until 2010. He left Magnolia to become Watertown’s head coach in 2012 and led the Arrows to a berth in the state championship game in 2013. Svendsen came back to Texas and was with Oak Ridge High School before becoming the head football coach and athletic director at Caney Creek High School in 2014.
Svendsen and Stevens are working together to coordinate a meet and greet, as well as a parent meeting, with a target time of late April or early May.
“I really want to meet the kids and starting establishing that relationship, and get a feel from them,” he said. “What are some of the things that they see with the program that we need to do? We’ll establish that relationship and we’ll go from there.”