Today, Briar Cliff University is excited to announce the hiring of the new head football coach, Dennis E. Wagner. Wagner comes to Briar Cliff with experience at all levels of collegiate football, including 20-plus seasons at the NCAA Division I level. He will begin his role as head coach immediately.
"I speak for the whole university when I say we are committed to the success of Briar Cliff's football program," said Dr. Hamid Shirvani, president of Briar Cliff University. "It is with great excitement that we welcome Coach Wagner to carry out that vision of success. His experience will be pivotal to enhancing Briar Cliff's program. He has the vision, integrity, character and leadership skills to build this team the right way."
Over the years, Wagner has helped produce numerous all-conference and all-American selections and a dozen of his linemen have been drafted into the National Football League, three of which have become all-Pros. Starting his coaching career in 1980, Wagner has an impressive coaching history that has led him to be a part of 10 NCAA bowl games and the second round of the FCS playoffs in 2014. He was twice named the Omaha World Herald's Coach of the Year (1990, 1993).
Equally important, Wagner can provide the leadership to build the team and the program off the field, as well.
"Coach Wagner has extensive experience recruiting throughout this region as well as developing and retaining quality players for his programs. He is a charismatic coach that students will look up to and willingly follow," said Jared Bodammer, interim athletic director for Briar Cliff University. "He isn't just committed to our young men as players; he's also committed to them as students and to helping them become more. He will bring with him experience in helping young men build life skills and ensure they are just as successful off the field."
As a coach, Wagner most recently finished up his fifth year at Liberty University, where he served as associate head coach and offensive line coach. Prior to that, he spent four seasons as the head coach at Western Carolina University. Wagner also spent four seasons at the University of Nebraska, serving as the Huskers' offensive line coach from 2004-2007. From 1997-2003, he served as the assistant head coach and offensive line coach at Fresno State University.
Prior to joining the staff at Fresno State, Wagner spent seven seasons (1989-1996) as the head coach at Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska. There, he turned around the Wildcat program, compiling a 44-37-1 record in eight seasons. In 2005, he was inducted into the Wayne State College Athletic Hall of Fame.
"I am honored to be at Briar Cliff University," said Wagner. "My career up to this point has prepared me for the type of coach Briar Cliff needs. I will give all I have to make this team successful and to ensure our students, alumni and supporters are proud. There is a lot of work to be done, but we will build a coaching staff and team that will work tirelessly to achieve greatness."
Wagner's other coaching stops included serving as the offensive coordinator and strength and conditioning coach at St. Cloud State (1985-1988), defensive line coach and assistant strength coach at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (1984), offensive line coach and head track and field coach at William Penn College (1983), tight ends and offensive tackles coach at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (1981-82) and offensive line coach at Luther College (1980).
This will be a homecoming of sorts for Wagner, who prepped at Radcliffe High School in Iowa. He also played collegiately at Drake University and Ellsworth Community College before finishing up at the University of Utah. He earned his bachelor's degree from Utah in psychology in 1982 and a master's degree in athletic administration from St. Cloud State in 1987.
Wagner and his wife, Cyndi, have two children, Whitney and Joshua.