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Seibel fulfills father's legacy, earns place in football coaches Hall of Fame

Somerset defensive coordinator Bob Seibel (right) and head coach Bruce Larson (left) stand with the six state championship game trophies they earned together. Submitted photo

When you played and coached for more than 40 years at a football field that is named after your father, you understand the importance of legacy and tradition.

Bob Seibel wanted to fulfill his father's legacy.

And with his induction into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in March, Seibel, the longtime defensive coordinator for the Somerset football team, has carved out his own niche in the history of the Somerset School District and Somerset athletics.

Seibel will be inducted into the WFCA Hall of Fame on March 24 at the Marriott West in Middleton. Seibel is one of five assistant coaches who are part of the 2018 Hall of Fame class.

Seibel graduated from Somerset High School in 1979 as a highly successful Spartan athlete. He played four sports, football, basketball, baseball and track. He was particularly successful in football and track. Almost 40 years after his graduation, he still holds the Somerset school record in the shot put.

Seibel attended Hamline University. He was a member of the Hamline track team and football team and is now a member of the school's athletic Hall of Fame.

After graduating from Hamline, Seibel returned to Somerset in 1983. He was hired as an assistant coach under football coach Harold Rivard and he's been there ever since. He was also hired as a physical education teacher at that time. Nearly all that time has been spent as the team's defensive coordinator. But the 2017 season was his last. Seibel announced that he is retiring from coaching. He retired from teaching three years ago.

While Seibel remained a coordinator in football through all those years, he did spend time as the varsity coach for the Spartan boys basketball and track teams.

Seibel has always coached with a high level of intensity. Brad Nemec took over as Somerset football coach and athletic director in 1986. He stepped down as football coach in 1999 and Bruce Larson took over the varsity role for the 2000 season.

Nemec gave Seibel complete control of the defense in 1986 and Seibel became one of the most highly respected defensive minds in western Wisconsin football. Nemec said the defensive role was a perfect fit for Seibel's mentality. When Nemec decided to step down in 1999, he said Seibel was the heir apparent for the job. Seibel had been dealing with severe back problems, which led him to pass on the offer.

"We'd come back from a game and he'd have to lay on the floor of the bus," Nemec said in recalling the intense back pain that Seibel dealt with for several years. Seibel was finally able have a surgery that alleviated much of the pain.

Larson accepted the head coaching position and he and Seibel formed an unbeatable team. Seibel's defenses annually ranked among the stingiest in the Middle Border Conference and were among the best in the state. The tandem of Larson and Seibel led the Spartans to the most prolific stretch of athletic success in school history. Six times in the 13-year span between 2002 and 2014, the Somerset football team advanced to the WIAA state championship game. And three times, the Spartans brought home a state championship, in 2002, 2012 and 2014. Nemec said the chemistry and work ethic of Seibel and Larson is what led to the unprecedented success.

"Their dedication is why the team got better," Nemec said.

Seibel said the turnaround of the program came at the 2001 state championships. He and Larson were watching Larson's nephew help Spring Valley win the Division 6 state title.

"Bruce said we can do this. That was the start of a whole lot of fun," Seibel said.

Larson recognized everything Seibel had done for the community and the athletic program. When the Spartans won their first state championship in 2002, it was Seibel who was sent out to receive the state championship trophy.

Part of the success of the Spartans was the decision to switch to a flex defense that few teams in the state utilized. Larson and Seibel made trips to Cal Poly and West Point to work with college coaching staffs that used the defense. Larson said Seibel devoted a great deal of time in learning every nuance of the defense.

"He researched it, we got around people who could teach us. He was always open to developing it, and to keep advancing it," Larson said.

Larson said it was Seibel's teaching skills that made him an exceptional coach.

"He connected with players really well. He could communicate what he wanted and get it across to the kids," Larson said.

Larson said Seibel hates to lose, which drove him to be a winning coach. But he never lost sight of what was important.

"Bob did it because he loved doing it. He's as loyal and honest a person as you'll ever find," Larson said.

Seibel said the Hall of Fame honor is the result of a lifetime of help he has received.

"It's a Somerset award," he said. "It represents the community, all the kids who've put in all the effort. The funnest thing is doing it on a field named after my dad."

Robert Seibel Sr. brought his family to Somerset for the 1951-52 school year. He was a teacher and coach, and eventually became a highly respected Somerset School district administrator.

"My dad died my freshman year (1975). I always had the sense that I wanted to make him proud. He was so well thought of around here."

And through his teaching, his coaching, and the guidance he's offered in 35 years in education, Bob's maintained the family legacy.

"He was a hometown boy. He bled Somerset," Nemec said of his assistant coach and long-time friend. "He had a very strong belief system and he never strayed from it."

Hall of Fame tickets

A limited number of tickets to attend Seibel's induction into the Hall of Fame are available. Anyone seeking tickets can contact Nemec at 715-497-5887 or at bnemec@somerset.k12.wi.us.

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.

(715) 426-1051
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