O'Brien to be Inducted Into Concordia Athletics Hall of Fame

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Go Gophers! Dan O'Brien
Go Gophers!
Dan O'Brien will be inducted into the Concordia University Athletics Hall of Fame on Oct. 5, 2012.
Go Gophers!
Release courtesy of Concordia University

Former Concordia University football coach and athletics director and current Minnesota director of football operations Dan O'Brien is a member of the Concordia Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2012.

O'Brien and three other members of the class will be inducted at the Hall of Fame banquet on Friday, October 5, 2012 during Homecoming weekend. The four members represent the 11th induction class dating back to 1992 and brings the total to 95 members.

O'Brien's greatest achievement in his tenure at Concordia was spearheading the move from NAIA to NCAA Division II and the NSIC in 1999. The Winthrop, Minn.-native joined Concordia as an assistant football coach in 1995 and just a few years later would become head football coach and athletics director.

His two years as head coach spanned the final season of the Comet-era in the Upper Midwest (UMAC) Conference in 1998 and the inaugural season of the Division II-era in 1999. He led the Golden Bears to their first-ever NCAA and NSIC football victories over the University of Minnesota Morris (43-21) and University of Minnesota Duluth (35-27).

As director of athletics from 1997 to 2002, O'Brien hired his replacement football coach, Shannon Currier, who in turn led the Golden Bears to a 2003 NSIC Championship and a Mineral Water Bowl appearance in the school's first-ever postseason bowl game. He presided over an era that played a critical role in developing the foundation for what it is today. During the transition, O'Brien helped spearhead the creation of the Golden Bear mascot and logo along with the University's first athletic booster club, at the time coined as the Golden Bear Club (now known as the C-Club). He was involved in the community through volunteering with HOSTS (Help One Student to Succeed) at Hancock Elementary School. Within one academic year of his leadership, coaches and student-athletes volunteered several thousand hours to help at-risk students improve their reading skills.

In addition to hiring his replacement on the football field which led to an NSIC Championship, O'Brien also hired Geoff Carlston to run the volleyball program. Carlston turned a losing Concordia program into an NSIC contender before moving up to the NCAA Division I level at Ohio University. There, he turned Ohio into a perennial NCAA Tournament force before moving on to become head coach at Ohio State University where he remains today. One of Carlston's assistants while O'Brien was at the helm of the athletic department was Brady Starkey, who was hired to replace Carlston and continued the program's momentum by leading the Golden Bears to a record-setting five consecutive NCAA Championships.

Four of O'Brien's hires are still thriving at Concordia 10 years after he's moved on: head baseball coach Mark "Lunch" McKenzie, head women's basketball coach Paul Fessler, head athletic trainer Ted Trzynka, and former softball coach and current athletic director Tom Rubbelke. All three coaches captured NSIC Championships, and all three have advanced to NCAA postseason play. Rubbelke, the first full-time head softball coach at Concordia, was recently named one of four NACDA Region Athletic Directors of the Year at the Division II level.

After leaving Concordia, O'Brien was named director of athletics at Hamline University in St. Paul and he is now the director of football operations for the University of Minnesota.

He earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of St. Thomas where he was an All-MIAC defensive back and two-time team captain. Dan and his wife, Chris, have three children, Brittany, Shay and Casey.

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