30 Iowa Conference titles
PELLA—The longest-tenured coach in Central College history as well as an integral part of the Dutch football tradition for 43 years as a coach and an additional four years as a player, Dick Bowzer will be honored Saturday at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium.
The college will celebrate Dick Bowzer Day and recognize the former assistant coach and player at halftime of Central’s game with Cornell College, which kicks off at 1 p.m.
Inducted into Central’s Athletics Hall of Honor in 2009, Bowzer and his wife, Barb, who was the college’s vice president of business and finance, both retired from the college last year.
Bowzer also served as an associate professor of exercise science at Central and was department chair for many years. He received the college’s Outstanding Faculty Performance Award for Effective Teaching in 2003-04.
At the time of his retirement, Bowzer had the longest tenure at one school of any active assistant football coach in the U.S. He was named the NCAA Division III assistant coach of the year by the American Football Coaches Association in 2008. Bowzer was also assistant men’s basketball coach at Central for 10 years and head men’s tennis coach for eight seasons.
A Jackson, Mich. native, Bowzer played for Ron Schipper in high school, then followed the future hall of famer to Central, where he helped build the legacy of one of the nation’s top college football programs. He was a versatile athlete, earning a combined 11 varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and tennis at Central before graduating in 1966.
He was a part of two Iowa Conference championship football squads as a player. Bowzer completed his master’s degree at Michigan State University before joining the Central staff in 1968.
Bowzer coached nearly every position on the team. He was Central’s defensive coordinator briefly before serving as offensive coordinator for many years and most recently worked with quarterbacks and receivers.
“We’re excited and proud to honor Coach Bowzer for his 43 years of service,” coach Jeff McMartin said. “Coach Bowzer has played an instrumental role in the Central football program and has touched the lives of so many players and coaches. He’s a true testament to what loyalty and Division III athletics are all about. He’s meant so much to our program and to the students here.
“It’s an honor to be able to say thanks to him.”
Veteran Dutch assistant Don De Waard, a 1982 Central graduate, played for Bowzer at Central and also studied under him in the exercise science department, before serving with him on the Dutch staff as the defensive coordinator while Bowzer worked with the offense.
“Coach Bowzer was always a very selfless individual,” De Waard said. “He put everybody else’s needs in front of his own. He would always do whatever he could for the program and for the players.
“He was a positive role model to the guys and is a good man. He had a ton of influence on the guys he coached. He was a big part of Central College and all the success we had.”
During Bowzer’s tenure the Dutch football squad made 20 NCAA Division III playoff appearances and won 21 conference titles, winning the 1974 national title and finishing second in 1984 and 1988. Players he coached have received all-conference honors 127 times, with seven league MVP awards.
“He has a great football mind,” De Waard said. “He could really put together a game plan. He understands the game and knows how to make things work.”
Bowzer continues to be heavily involved in service work, particularly through Second Reformed Church in Pella, where he served multiple terms on the consistory as a deacon. He’s twice served on the church’s executive committee while also spending many years on various church councils. Bowzer spent a summer remodeling the church’s basement and has participated in mission work trips to Kentucky, Michigan and Missouri. He’s been involved with community service projects as well and launched the Pella Open tennis tournament, helping it become among the largest city tennis tournaments in Iowa.
Bowzer was the first Division III representative on the AFCA Assistant Coaches Committee, serving three years, and was a member of the AFCA Coach of the Year Committee.
Matt VerMeer, a 2010 Central graduate and a former wide receiver and Central team co-captain, said the players valued Bowzer’s contributions.
“Coach Bowzer knows more about football than you can possibly imagine,” he said. “He spent a lot of time with me individually, behind the scenes. He taught me a lot.”
“Coach Bowzer has been an amazing role model and resource for 43 years,” McMartin said. “Our players and coaches can apply his philosophy of continuous learning, caring about others, keeping things simple and understanding one’s role, to their professional careers and daily lives.”