Mark Mauer, a St. Paul high school sports legend, is returning to the local prep ranks as coach of Hill-Murray’s football program.
Mauer, cousin of Twins catcher Joe Mauer, replaces former Vikings quarterback Brooks Bollinger, who resigned after one season to become the quarterbacks coach at the University of Pittsburgh. Under Bollinger, the Pioneers reached the Class 4A state tournament semifinals.
Mauer most recently coached at Concordia University in St. Paul. He stepped down as football coach in June 2011 after seven seasons. Mauer compiled the most victories (40) in program history.
Mauer coached the Golden Bears to the 2005 NSIC championship and earned NSIC Coach of the Year honors in the process. He also coached the team to a pair of Mineral Water Bowl appearances (2005, 2010). Under Mauer, Concordia posted three winning seasons and finished .500 or better four times in conference play.
Hill-Murray’s announcement Tuesday also said that Mauer will serve as major gifts officer in the school’s advancement department.
NOTE: Below is a profile of Mauer written by Star Tribune reporter Dean Spiros that appeared in Aug. 2004 after Mauer accepted the Concordia head football coaching job:
David Herbster, 35, is in his second year as athletic director at Concordia University in St. Paul. He had begun the search for a head football coach when this resume crossed his desk:
Mark Mauer, receivers coach, New Mexico State. Former offensive coordinator at North Dakota State. St. Paul native and a member of the St. Paul Athletic Hall of Fame. Graduate of the University of Nebraska.
Those credentials got Herbster's attention. References? Former St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman and his successor, Randy Kelly, are possibilities. Mauer worked with both as a member of the St. Paul city council. Or Tom Osborne, the legendary football coach at Nebraska, where Mauer played quarterback from 1977 to 1981.
Before long, Herbster was searching frantically for a contract and a pen before remembering the realities of the small private school are that a handshake will have to do.
Mark Mauer is happy - no, ecstatic - to oblige. And for Herbster, the feeling is mutual.
"I want Mark here as long as he'll stay here," he said.
That could be awhile, now that Mauer has made his way home. It would be hard to give up the opportunity to spend more time with his parents, Ken and Thelma. To give up the pickup basketball games with his brothers Kenny, Tommy, Brian and Jimmy, or the visits with his sister Robyn. And then there's the opportunity to watch his cousin, Joe, play ball with the Twins.
It feels good, just as he knew it would, to travel the streets in his East St. Paul neighborhoods of Hazel Park and Battle Creek again.
Now all he has to do is win some football games. Mauer has a good chance to do that with a team led by quarterback James McNear, the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference offensive player of the year on last season's 8-4 team.
Mauer's first attempt arrives Saturday night when the Golden Bears play at Augustana. It will be Mauer's first game as head coach at any level.
"I'm sure there are a lot of people who are curious to see how I handle being a head coach," Mauer said. "Including me."
His pedigree alone suggests Mauer, 44, has what it takes. His father coached high school football for 40 years, primarily at Harding in St. Paul, and his three uncles on the Mauer side all participated in and coached sports.
"It's got to be somewhere in the genes," Ken Mauer said. "We're like horses - bloodlines."
The strong lineage has extended to today, of course, with Joe Mauer's budding career with the Twins and his brothers, Jake and Bill, hoping to move up through the Twins' farm system.
"The Mauers own this area," McNear said. "When I heard the new coach's name was Mauer, I said, `It's over. We're taken care of.' "
Years before Joe Mauer became a sports legend in St. Paul, Mark Mauer was doing the same. And years before Mark Mauer, there were his dad and uncles.
There didn't seem to be anything Mauer couldn't do in any sport.
"He was the best football player I ever coached in my 40 years of high school football," Ken Mauer said of his star linebacker and quarterback. "Along with baseball, he was a good basketball player, too. He could have played Division I if he had chosen to. He was quite a youngster; a great competitor who loved to win. He carries that over to today."
Mauer was drafted out of high school by the Twins as a lefthanded-hitting catcher (sound familiar?), but elected to accept a scholarship to play quarterback at Nebraska.
"I went there with the idea of playing football and baseball," Mauer said, "but the reality was that when I got to Nebraska, football consumed me."
Mauer competed for the starting quarterback job as a junior and won the job as a senior, when he served as a team captain. When the Cornhuskers got off to a 2-2 start in nonconference play, Osborne decided to replace Mauer with freshman Turner Gill.
"It wasn't easy for coach Osborne to tell me," Mauer said. "But I understood. We had switched from a passing offense to an option offense. There were things Turner could do that I couldn't do."
An injury forced Gill to the sideline and Mauer returned to the starting lineup when the fourth-ranked Cornhuskers traveled to the Orange Bowl to face unbeaten and top-ranked Clemson, a team that featured defensive lineman William (the Refrigerator) Perry. Clemson claimed the national championship with a 22-15 victory.
"Mark was very aggressive for a quarterback," said Nebraska teammate Lawrence Cole, who has joined Mauer's staff as defensive coordinator. "If he caught you not looking you'd find yourself down on the ground. Mark is the kind of guy you'd want by your side when you're walking down a dark alley."
Mauer returned to baseball after his football career ended and hit .370 for the Cornhuskers as their designated hitter, earning All-Big Eight honors. He received tryouts with the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals, but a rotator cuff injury left him unable to throw, ending any hope of signing a contract.
"I'll still talk to my dad and my brothers about whether I made the right call choosing football over baseball," Mauer said. "But I don't have any regrets. It's just fun to think, `What if.' "
Another popular topic of discussion among the Mauers is the similarities between Joe and Mark as athletes.
"Both lefthanded-hitting catchers, both quarterbacks," Jimmy Mauer said. "Mark could do anything. A lot of the mannerisms I see from Joe I saw from Mark."
Mauer sat in the Metrodome stands with Joe's parents, Jake and Teresa, on Opening Night, cheering for another Mauer who had found success. Cheering for another St. Paul kid who had found success.
Beyond the name recognition, Herbster was confident he was getting a coach who was ready to run a program. Mauer's coaching career began as a graduate assistant at Nebraska and included a stint at North Dakota State as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
"I used to work at North Dakota State," Herbster said, "so I called a couple of people I know there. They said, `You couldn't get anyone better.' "
New Mexico State head coach Tony Samuel agrees. "He's one of those detail-oriented guys," Samuel said. "He likes everything in order. I'm sure he'll be on the guys to keep the locker room neat. But he's very personable. The players will like him. He'll want them to work hard, but he will be able to keep things light."
He has been well-received by the players.
"He's a great coach," McNear said. "You can tell he's been working with Division I guys. He's laid back with us, but he's stern at the same time.”
Mauer used the words "upbeat" and "intense" to describe his coaching style, which he said will be culled from what he learned from his father, Osborne, former Nebraska coach Frank Solich and former NDSU and Wisconsin coach Don Morton, with whom Mauer worked in Madison for five years.
Mauer left coaching in 1991 after Morton was fired, unsure if he'd ever return.
"I was bitter," Mauer said, "because I didn't think Don got a fair shake. When you see good people fired you begin to wonder if you're putting your family at risk by staying in coaching. So I decided to give the business world a try."
Mauer joined a company that makes theft-prevention sensors for stores and moved to Boston. The company transferred him to the Twin Cities, which led to another career turn. In 1992 Mauer accepted the job as legislative assistant to St. Paul city councilman Dino Guerin, a friend from childhood. When Guerin resigned to take a seat on the Ramsey County Board in 1997, Mauer replaced him as city councilman.
"When I took the job everyone asked me if I was a Democrat or a Republican," Mauer said. "I had to be honest; I didn't know the difference. I told them: "I'm a conservative liberal. You figure it out.' "
Among the highlights of his foray into politics, Mauer said, was taking part in the process that brought the NHL back to the Twin Cities when the Wild was born in St. Paul.
Return to football
Soon after, he was back on the sidelines, as offensive coordinator at North Dakota State.
Now that's he's back in coaching, Mauer said, "I'm here for the long haul."
The Mauers agreed to let their 17-year-old daughter Mia finish high school in Las Cruces, N.M., so she and Jennifer, Marlo (15) and Macy (14) won't move to the Twin Cities until the spring.
"The kids have always been the ones who have had to sacrifice because of my career," Mauer said. "It was time for me to bite the bullet and suffer for a year."
The Mauer clan won't let him stew - or be alone - too long.
"We're real fired up to have him back in town," said Jimmy Mauer, who will coach receivers on his brothers' staff.
Come game days, Ken Mauer promises the Mauers will be 10 to 15 strong in the stands.
"We'll have cousins and aunts and uncles out here," Jimmy Mauer said, "and they'll all have opinions and they'll all critique every move Mark makes. That's just the way it is. But we'll support him and love him no matter what."