University of Washington Director of Athletics, Jennifer Cohen, announced Monday, November 29, that Kalen DeBoer has been selected as the 30th head coach in Husky football history. DeBoer, 47, is a native of Milbank and a 1993 graduate of Milbank High School. In 1998, he earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Sioux Falls, where he also played as a wide receiver from 1993 to 1996.
As the story goes, DeBoer was vacillating between attending the University of South Dakota and USF. The Coyotes insisted he suit up as a linebacker and USF told him he could play any position he wanted. So, Cougar it was! And, USF never had a losing record again while DeBoer was on their roster. They went 8-3 in 1994, 11-1 in 1995, and were the NAIA Division II National Championship team in 1996 with a perfect 14-0 season.
As icing on the cake, he compiled three school records by racking up 3,400 yards and 33 touchdowns on 234 career receptions. In 1996, he was selected as an All-American.
He also collected USF school records in baseball. He still holds the record for batting .520 in 1998. His career average of .492 also still stands as the best in USF history as do his 37 career homers and .944 slugging percentage.
After graduation, he played one year of independent league baseball as a left fielder with the Canton Crocodiles in Canton, Ohio. DeBoer then returned to Sioux Falls and football to embark on his coaching career as an assistant coach at Washington High School. From there, it was a short move across town to USF to an offensive coordinator position. A post he held from 2000-2004.
When USF’s head coach retired, DeBoer took the reins as head coach in 2005. He built the USF team into a national powerhouse, finished 67-3, and led the Cougars to three NAIA championships. He was selected as the NAIA National Coach of the Year in each of his championship seasons — 2006, 2008, and 2009.
After the 2009 season, DeBoer relocated to Southern Illinois as their offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. During his two years in that role, he helped guide the Bulldogs to season records of 10-4 (2017) and 12-2 (2018), and helped them secure two division titles, two bowl game victories, and the Mountain West Conference Championship in 2018.
A brief stint at Indiana University as associate head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterbacks coach in 2019, resulted in eight victories for the Hoosiers to match their highest number of wins in 26 seasons and the third most in school history. IU also earned a berth in the Gator Bowl.
In December of 2019, DeBoer returned to Fresno State — this time as their head coach. In 2021, his second season there, he helped boost the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record. Now, in his seven seasons as a head football coach, he has amassed a 79-9 (.898) record.
In Cohen’s press release welcoming DeBoer, his wife, Nicole, and their daughters, Alexis and Avery, to Seattle, she said, “We set out to find the best fit for Husky football, and we found an individual that exemplifies everything this program represents. Kalen is a winner and champion, plain and simple. He has succeeded at every stop because he does it the right way and is committed to a culture of excellence for Husky football students and athletes. His strong value alignment with our department, university, and community will make all of Husky Nation proud.”