Kotila resigns as Ridgewater coach

Dwight Kotila is leaving Ridgewater in style -- on a bus to Texas, taking yet another Ridgewater College baseball team to the World Series for Division III junior colleges.

Dwight Kotila is leaving Ridgewater in style -- on a bus to Texas, taking yet another Ridgewater College baseball team to the World Series for Division III junior colleges.

Kotila told his team on Wednesday that he has resigned his post. At the end of the national tournament, he would end his 10-year association with the college here as a golf team and baseball coach and physical education instructor.

Contacted by phone, he said from the southbound bus he simply couldn't afford to be a part-time player on the Willmar campus any longer.

"I've been told (by the administration) there's no room for a full-time person (in physical education)," he said. "It's hard to believe. (Athletic director and football coach) John Vraa left two years ago and Val (Swanson) retired from volleyball two years ago. (Wrestling coach) Jesse Nelson left this year and was replaced by two part-timers."

Kotila said he also was told that his teaching load would be reduced starting next fall.


Under those conditions, Kotila, who has a M.S. in Physical Education and Sports Science from St. Cloud State, had to look around for full-time work.

"I've been offered a job at Century College in White Bear Lake," he said. "It's an unlimited, tenured, full-time position as a physical education teacher and athletic director."

Century's intercollegiate programs are currently limited to golf and soccer, but could grow, he said.

Kotila's record speaks for itself. Ridgewater (or Willmar JC) had never reached the national stage in baseball until Kotila arrived in 1998. His first three teams were stopped short, but starting in 2002, the teams have missed only once (2004) getting to the World Series. He's a seven-time Region 13 Coach of the Year.

No one is irreplaceable but Kotila's success at bringing quality young men who are also terrific ballplayers to this town will go unmatched.

From its start-up in the early 1960s, athletics have been central to the college here. The intercollegiate teams put it in the headlines in a positive spirit once or twice a week. This past week the softball and baseball teams dominated these pages, and it was well deserved.

The campus in Willmar once had full-time coaches and instructors. In the 1980s it was Roy Minter, Mike Johnson, Pete Goeser and Val Swansson.

Now the instructor/coaches are three-quarter time, at best. Only women's basketball coach Carrie Ogdahl and softball coach/athletic director Todd Thorstad teach on campus. The rest of the coaching staff hold down full-time jobs elsewhere.


Somehow, Ridgewater still has maintained its overall excellence in athletics.

Kotila, a Cokato native, played two years for Willmar Community College in the late 1980s. He said Mike Johnson was instrumental in helping him land the job in Willmar in 1998, the year Kotila took Riverland CC to the NJCAA World Series.

"Mike was my mentor and tutor," said Kotila. "We kept in touch when I was at Austin. I will always be grateful. He's been a great friend."

On the fly

n Ridgewater is, of course, a springboard for achievement at four-year schools, both academically and athletically. Laura Suter, a KMS graduate from rural Murdock, had a strong first year playing softball for Waldorf College in Forest City Iowa. The pitcher/shortstop made the Midwest Collegiate All-Conference team and the NAIA All-Region VII team. She led the team in home runs (8) and was second in doubles (11). Her pitching record was 13-5 for the conference champions who finished 38-14.

n The Willmar Rails won't have Alex Marcus this year, unfortunately. He will do a summer internship at a firm in Austria. The ex-Cardinal will graduate from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Saturday with a degree in civil and environmental engineering. This week he's playing at the NCAA DIII regional in Terre Haute, Ind. A senior captain and outfielder, he hit .284 with 33 RBI and 20 extra-base hits, second best on the team. Calvin won its first MIAA conference title since 2002 and its 32 wins are the program's all-time best.

n A challenging run of road games to end the season for the Cardinals baseball team. They conclude the conference season against two of the top clubs, at St. Cloud Tech today and at Brainerd on Friday for two. The season ends at Hutchinson, a 2AAA section foe. Seeding is Wednesday. The softball team will try to build on an impressive win at Brainerd when they host Tech today.

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