University of Minnesota head football coach Tracy Claeys announced today the hiring of Dan O’Brien to fill an open coaching position on the defensive side of the ball. The position was created when Claeys was named head coach.
The Winthrop, Minn., native had previously served as Minnesota’s director of football operations from 2008-14 and was most recently a senior associate athletic director for the Gophers with oversight of the football program.
O’Brien now joins the Minnesota staff in a coaching capacity, as he will fill the roles of co-special teams coordinator, assistant defensive backs coach and assistant to the head coach. He will begin his new role immediately.
“I tried to get Dan to join the coaching staff the last time we had an opening, but the timing was not right for him and his family,” said Claeys. “Dan has been a head coach, a coordinator and an assistant coach at the collegiate and high school level and nobody knows our state and Minnesota football better than him. He will certainly make us better on the field, but will also help us succeed off the field in fundraising, community engagement and recruiting Minnesota.”
O’Brien, who has longstanding ties with the Minnesota Football Coaches Association, will recruit the state of Minnesota along with linebacker coach and Gopher alum Mike Sherels. Running back coach Pat Poore will also be a co-special teams coordinator for the Gophers.
O’Brien is a fixture in Minnesota football and has experience working at the high school, NAIA, NCAA?Division III, NCAA?Division II?and NCAA?Division I levels.
“I have always considered myself a coach, and the opportunity to join Coach Claeys and his staff is not one I could pass up,” said O’Brien. “I am excited to get on the field and work with our student-athletes and to help deliver a product that will make our fans proud. I also want to thank interim athletics director Beth Goetz, as I thoroughly enjoyed my time as an administrator. I am also looking forward to continuing some of those same duties as assistant to the head coach.”
O'Brien came to Minnesota after spending nearly six years as director of athletics at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. During his time at Hamline, O'Brien saw the number of student-athletes competing in postseason competition rise from one to 121.
Under O'Brien's leadership, 23 Hamline teams qualified for MIAC or national postseason play or finished the season in the top four in the conference.
Prior to joining Hamline, O'Brien worked at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn., from 1995-2002 and was both the head football coach and director of athletics. He was instrumental in moving the Golden Bears athletic program from the NAIA level to NCAA?Division II.
As the head football coach, O'Brien led Concordia to its first two football wins as a member of NCAA?Division II. He began his tenure at Concordia as assistant head football coach and defensive coordinator and was promoted to and served as head coach in 1999 and 2000, while also working as director of athletics. O'Brien was inducted into Concordia's Athletics Hall of Fame on Oct. 5, 2012.
O'Brien was the head football coach and defensive coordinator at Bemidji High School from 1993-95 and was an assistant coach at Lakeville High School from 1989-93. He was the defensive coordinator at Lakeville when it won a state title in 1992. O’Brien began his coaching career in 1987 at Benilde-St. Margaret's High School.
O'Brien received his bachelor's degree in 1987 from the University of St. Thomas and later earned his master's degree from the school. He played football at St. Thomas and earned All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors as a defensive back. O’Brien was a member of the Tommies for three seasons and was a team captain as a junior and senior. Prior to his time at St. Thomas, he earned all-conference honors at Normandale Community College and played in the Midwest Bowl.
COACHING / ADMINISTRATIVE EXPERIENCE
2015- Co-special Teams Coordinator / Assistant Defensive Backs Coach / Assistant to the Head coach.
2014-15 Senior Associate Athletic Director / Football
2008-14 Minnesota Director of Football Operations
2002-07 Hamline University Director of Athletics
1999-2002 Concordia-St. Paul Director of Athletics
1999-2000 Concordia-St. Paul Head Football Coach / Defensive Coordinator
1995-1999 Concordia-St. Paul Assistant Head Football Coach / Defensive Coordinator
1993-1995 Bemidji High School Head Football Coach / Defensive Coordinator
1989-1993 Lakeville High School Assistant Coach / Defensive Coordinator
1987-1989 Benilde-St. Margaret's High School Assistant Coach