BISMARCK, ND — The University of Mary today announced it has named Dale Lennon as the new leader of its athletic program. The state’s only private Catholic university made the announcement at a morning press conference today, Wednesday, May 31.

“This is a very exciting and historic day in University of Mary Marauders athletics,” stated University of Mary President Monsignor James Shea. “If there is anyone who can follow in the steps of two legends with virtue, character and leadership, it is Dale Lennon. We’ve watched Dale’s great work and hands-on style both from afar and close up—from his coaching days at Mary, North Dakota and Southern Illinois, to his current one-year administrative position here as director of Public Affairs. We know what we have in this Knox, North Dakota, native: a man who has brought national acclaim to our state through his work, including a national championship; a man who has trained his entire life for this position even up to this very moment; a man very proud of the orange and blue, its heritage and all the men and women who have donned the uniform; a man of action and energy who demands results and goals from his coaches and their programs; a man with competitive fire who breathes, eats, and sleeps Marauders athletics. We are thrilled he will continue to bring more accolades to Mary—a university that is flourishing and thriving and attracting students from across the state and nation. This is our new leader, this is our time.”

Former head football coach Dale Lennon returns to Marauders Athletics as Athletic Director.

Lennon becomes only the third athletic director in the school’s nearly 60-year history, succeeding legendary Hall of Fame athletic directors the late Al Bortke, and current AD Roger Thomas, who retires at the end of June.

“I’ve been fortunate to have worked with both Al Bortke and Roger Thomas—both are mentors of mine,” stated Lennon. “Because of those two relationships my acceptance of the athletic director position is all the more special. My deep respect for these men permits me to be extremely invested in the pursuit of excellence within this athletic department. I was associated with University of Mary athletics during a very successful time in Marauders history, so it’s my belief and expectation to return to that level of success.”

Lennon’s first role as the Marauders head coach 18 years ago and subsequent return to Mary over a year ago have all been memorable and for him and his wife Chris.

“The University of Mary’s influence never left us,” added Lennon. “My family and I knew we belonged to a very special place.”

Lennon’s experience and leadership credentials span over three decades as football player, coach and administrator. His career has impacted hundreds of fellow coaches and student athletes, including 40 players who have gone on to play professionally in either the National Football League (NFL) or Canadian Football League (CFL).

Lennon believes an athletic program exists to develop moral character in its student athletes, even if the public judges by wins and losses and the success of its graduates. Mary offers the perfect environment for a flourishing athletic program.

“I especially look forward to connecting with our Marauders alumni. One of my most important roles as athletic director will be to bring back former athletes and establish a genuine and lasting relationship that allows the successes and traditions of the past to be a part of today’s athletic culture.”

Lennon Post Game with SIU Players at Busch Stadium

Coaching an NCAA Division I football program at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level is often compared to being a CEO of a small business. Lennon took advantage of those unique skills in 2016 as he went from walking the sidelines and calling plays on the gridiron to game-planning marketing strategies and helping quarterback community relations for the University of Mary during its current Vision 2030 Capital Campaign.

“My past 32 years in college athletics has prepared me well for the challenges of being an athletic director,” added Lennon, who will assume duties on July 1. “I especially believe that serving this past year as director of Public Affairs will prove very beneficial. This position allowed me to participate in the day-to-day operations of the university and provided me with an opportunity to develop wide-ranging relationships throughout the university and Bismarck-Mandan community.

Dale Lennon 1997 Coaching University of Mary Marauders

Lennon’s college playing days began at the University of North Dakota as a two-year starter and three-year letter winner at the fullback position while earning Most Valuable Offensive Back and team captain honors in 1983.

Lennon began his stellar coaching career in 1985 before earning his first head coaching gig here at the University of Mary (NAIA) from 1997 through 1999. He turned the last place Marauders into a first place squad in just one year.

Dale Lennon Coaching at UND

That swift success propelled his career into a move up the NCAA Division II ranks in 1999 as head coach at his alma mater, UND. In nine years there he won a national championship (2001), amassed the best record in school history with a 90-24 mark, and claimed numerous national, regional and conference Coach of the Year honors.

An eight-year head coaching stint at NCAA Division I and FCS school Southern Illinois (Missouri Valley Football Conference) ensued from 2008 to 2015. There, Lennon led the Salukis to two conference championships, two FCS playoff appearances and two conference and regional Coach of the Year honors. He served on the Board of Trustees of the American Football Coaches Association, the main governing body of college football and was chair of the FCS executive committee that represents all of Division I FCS football programs.

Lennon takes over an athletic program that only officially made the jump in rank from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II in 2008, during the Bortke and Thomas transitional years.

The University of Mary has 17 women’s and men’s sports teams and is one of 16 schools in the premier Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).