Years Played


Year Inducted


Played guard for the Bison from 1959 to 1961 where he was a two-year starter for the Herd and was named the Most Improved Lineman on the team as a senior.

He parlayed that experience into one of the most storied coaching careers in the Upper Midwest. In 32 years of coaching, including three years at Central Cass High School in Casselton, N.D., and 29 years at Stillwater High School in Minnesota, his teams posted a 285-69-2 record including four Minnesota state championships, two state runner-up finishes, 18 state tournament appearances, 17 conference championships, and 12 sectional titles.

It began with three perfect 9-0 ledgers at Central Cass from 1965 through 1967. That stint also included coaching basketball and track. He moved on to the University of Minnesota in 1968 as a graduate assistant for Murray Warmath's Gophers for one year before serving two years as an assistant coach at Richfield (Minn.) High School.

His career at Stillwater began in 1971 and resulted in state titles in 1975, 1982, 1984, and 1995. Runner-up finishes came in 1977 and 1989. With 285 career wins in Minnesota football, he ranks second on Minnesota's all-time prep victory list.

A 1962 NDSU graduate, he earned a master's degree from Minnesota State-Moorhead in 1966. A native of Petaluma, Calif., he originally attended Utah State for one year before transferring to NDSU. The past president of the Minnesota State Football Coaches Association, he has coached All-Star football teams in Minnesota and Ireland and has received over 75 coaching awards including induction into the Minnesota State Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He has been Minnesota large school Coach of the Year three times (1974, 1982 and 1995) and was the State Coach of the Year in 1982.

Thole and his wife Karen have one son and one daughter. His son, Eric, quarterbacked that 1982 Stillwater state championship team for his father.