Coach Seth Duerr Brings Swagger to Beloit College Buccaneers
It has not been since 2009 that the Beloit College football team has found themselves on the north side of the .500 mark but, with a new Captain leading the Buccaneers these days, the team is rapidly seeing itself navigating the treacherous waters of the Midwest Conference with greater swagger. That man is Coach Seth Duerr who, in just his second season, has the Buccaneers on the rise as a force that will be reckoned with for many years.
To say that the job that Coach Duerr has done is astounding is akin to saying that Donald Trump is a tad bit arrogant. Two years ago Beloit lured him from Tiffin University (Tiffin, OH), where he had been the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. The coach had a decade of coaching experience prior to the Tiffin job, serving as defensive coordinator at his alma mater, the College of Wooster, defensive line coach at Ohio Northern University and running backs coach at Averett University. He loved his time at Tiffin, but was ready for the challenge that the Buccaneers offered him.
“Becoming a head football coach was a big goal of mine. When I came here and looked and found out about the school and the program at length, I really thought I could make a serious impact here. I had a lot of respect for the kind of education they’re providing and felt I really could relate to what these players are going through. I also felt that there was a lot of growth and opportunity for the program, where we could take this program, and so I felt really strong about the ability to have success here and I felt it would be a really good place to bring my family.”
Wanting to make a difference on the field has been the Coach’s desire since he first thought that coaching was the pathway he wanted to follow in his career. His own experience on the field and how he was affected by the men that coached him really impacted his life as a young man, and he wanted to have that same kind of impact on today’s youth.
“I had a really great experience as a player, both in high school and college, and I thought about how impactful the experience I had was. The guys who coached me kind of made me want to get into it myself, to really come to love the game. I want to have that same kind of impact where I can make this a game that the players love but also where they can find a lot of reward. I want to try to help them succeed on the field and to grow as men.”
The impact that his coaches had on Seth Duerr showed in his personal success he had as a player. From 1997-2000 he starred for his alma mater, and was twice a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy, the award given to the most outstanding football player in Division-III football. He was a First Team All-American selection twice and was the defensive player of the year in his conference. He was also the fourth player in North Coast Athletic Conference history to earn All-Conference First-Team honors all four years he played football.
Seth had truly starred on the gridiron and, once he graduated, he took that same kind of passion and knowledge of the game to the coaching ranks. He clearly had a real wisdom about how to scheme against his opponents and it was just a matter of time before he became a head coach somewhere. On February 10, 2014, Beloit offered the position to Coach Duerr and he was happy to become the 28th football coach in the school’s history.
The Buccaneers were in need of a complete transformation of their football program as they had hit some hard times. In the three seasons prior to Coach Duerr taking the job the team had won just three games, including going winless in 2012 and winning just one game in 2013. It was truly a daunting task that was ahead, but one that the Coach was fully prepared to take head on.
“There were some challenges for sure. It was a very small roster and there had to be a foundation that the players could really embrace. For me it starts with the guys having an understanding that they really need to have a certain trust and respect for each other, and for their coaches they also need to show that same kind of respect and trust. These are what we consider to be our two core values that we really wanted our guys to focus on, and we felt that with these kind of core values in place there’s a lot of other things we can do along the way that really help to build confidence in what we’re trying to do here.”
A new coach brings a lot of enthusiasm to any program, but that does not always equate to success on the field. The Buccaneers could have easily continued to struggle, especially with a roster of barely 30 players, and no one would have been too surprised if they had.
Adding to the challenge of building this program into a true contender is the fact that Beloit is one of the finer academic institutions in the country. This means that only very special kinds of students can even be considered, plus there is the added challenge of competing with schools such as Grinnell, Macalester and Knox, which are also outstanding academic institutions in the Midwest Conference, as well as premier schools like the University of Chicago, which is not too far from Beloit. It is a challenge that many coaches would whither under, but Coach Duerr quickly developed a strategy on how he was going to win on the field and, more importantly, in the war for recruits.
“At this level, especially in Division III, there’s a real challenge for me to be really organized. It can be a challenge to attract the right kind of student-athlete that we want here, but this is a great institution. This is where a first rate education is provided, and Beloit gives its students a real opportunity to be a success. I know there are great schools in this conference, and I want the players who express an interest in coming here to see that they can gain one of the finest educations in the country here and that they can have a great experience playing football here.”
One of the parts of his job that Coach Duerr really enjoys most is the relationship that he gets to build with parents. He recognizes that moms and dads are entrusting their sons to him and he takes that responsibility quite seriously.
“We want to ensure when families come that they realize that we will really care about their son and that they’re going to see that our concern and our desire to see them succeed goes way beyond what is occurring on the football field. I want men who come to this program to see that they are important to the team and to the school, and I want families to know that we are going to work to build men of great integrity and character.”
To reach those aims, the Beloit Coach makes it a special point to get to know each of his players. While he admits that sometimes his relationship is closer with some players than it is with others, he still feels that the personal connection is part of what makes that trust and respect grow.
“I really try to do my best to ensure that I make myself available, no matter what’s going on, so the players understand I always have time to listen and that they feel that I have time for them to sit down with me. It’s true that you’re always busy with recruiting and then there is the season as well, but I try to make sure I’m doing my best as a coach to be the guy who is making himself available and trying to meet with them personally. That is important in building trust and getting to know each player as a person.”
His approach to how he recruits and challenges his players to embrace these core set of values has had an instantaneous impact on the school, not only in terms of pure numbers, but also in how well they have played on the field. The Beloit Buccaneers won three games last season (3-7), which may not seem like a significant improvement but, for a team that won just three total games in the previous three seasons, it is quite extraordinary.
One must also consider that they won those three games with barely 30 players on the team, often less than half of what opponents had on their squads. Coach Duerr was proving that he can get the very most out of his players, and that they truly did trust that he was putting them in a position to succeed.
His success on the field last season coupled with his intelligence and character paid big dividends this season. Coach Duerr recruited 34 freshman to this year’s team, and the added depth is yielding added success on the field. Beloit is 2-3 this year, but two of those three loses were by less than eight points. It is truly a program on the rise, but the Coach is not ready to say that his team is ready to join the elite of the Midwest Conference – yet.
“I certainly think were on the rise but I don’t know if we are turning the corner yet, because I think we have to get to a point where we’re winning those close games. Do I think we’re a much better team than a year ago, absolutely, but we need to make sure that we grow up and we need to get to a point where we are putting all three phases of the game together; where we’re being a lot more consistent and doing the things that we need to do to really take the game to another level.”
At 2-3 it would be safe to say that the Beloit College Buccaneers are not in the upper echelon of the conference yet, but they are clearly a team that no one is taking lightly. Macalester College football coach Tony Jennison called the Buccaneers a “scary team to face,” and pointed to the instruction of Coach Duerr as a primary cause for concern when facing them.
“He’s a great coach who really knows how to get the most out of his players. They are already a significantly improved team from last season, and last season we had our hands full with them. They are not a team anyone wants to face now,” Coach Jennison explains.
Coach Seth Duerr has proven that he is as good of a master at the Xs and Os of the game as any coach you will find. He is a great motivator, who inspires his players to expand the threshold of their play, reaching levels they may not even know that they could attain. He is helping to mold his players into incredible young men that are going to be difference makers in a society desperately in need of men of integrity.
All of that brings the Coach a great deal of joy and satisfaction, but it is clear that watching his players grow as men is the greatest joy of being the coach in a game he so loves. It is something that he embraces as the most special part of being a coach.
“I love being a competitor and I also love being able to influence my guys. I love to see guys that are growing as football players and as young man, and ultimately you’re able to see a kid who comes as an 18-year-old, and you see them grow so that when they leave it’s really cool to see how they just have grown. This is one of the best parts about coaching at this level.”
It is really cool to see the Beloit College Buccaneers grow as a football team. This is a team that has had just three winning seasons in 15 years, but with Coach Seth Duerr at the helm, Buccaneers fans can be sure that trend is about to change. The swagger is back at Beloit College and it is here to stay. Opponents better get prepared because these Buccaneers are not only navigating the treacherous waters of the Midwest Conference, they are ready to proclaim that they are masters of the sea.
By Robert Pannier