High schools: Nangle era coming to an end in Pipestone
PIPESTONE — Bob Nangle has been the face of Pipestone Area High School athletics for more than 41 years. But oddly enough, his career nearly went in a different direction.
After getting his first teaching and head football coaching job at Edgerton in 1961 and spending three years there, Nangle went back to school and was a graduate assistant with the University of South Dakota. Before the start of the 1965-66 school year, he got a call from his friend, the late Hugo Goehle, asking him to come to Hills High School. Around the same time, he got an offer from the principal at Pipestone — where he played baseball with the summer amateur team — to come on as a teacher and coach.
He signed a contract to take his services to Hills.
“The principal at Pipestone called me up again and said, ‘Wouldn’t you like to come to Pipestone?” Nangle said. “I said, ‘You know, I think I would.’ I called up Hugo and he hadn’t taken the contract to the school board yet. He was willing to tear it up it up and let me come to Pipestone.”
Since that fall, Nangle has worked at Pipestone. That run, however, will come to an end with the closing of the 2013-14 school year when he retires from his position of athletic director — one he’s held since 1972.
He started at Pipestone as a physical education teacher and was a coach in the football, track and field, basketball and wrestling programs. In 1972, he was asked to apply for the athletics director position. Again, there was a little apprehension.
“I was interested but I didn’t know how I felt about it at first,” Nangle said. “It just came down to; what could I do that would be most beneficial to the school and the students in the long run? I decided that could be as AD. It’s worked out pretty decent.”
In taking the job, he stepped down from his position as head football coach and stayed on with his first love, track and field. He also became head coach of the Arrows cross country team. He retired from teaching and coaching in 1999 but retained his spot as the athletic director. In 2004, he returned to leading the cross country team and being an assistant track coach.
“The AD appointed a sucker,” he joked.
The fall of 2013 was his 38th and final year with the cross country team.
Now at 75 years old and with more than 50 years of involvement in high school athletics under his belt, Nangle said he feels the time is right for him to walk away.
“It’s been a great marriage,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of fellows retire and get a second job. I’ve stayed on and done what I loved. That’s all thanks to having a supportive administration and school board that allowed me to stay on. I would have been bored to death if I would have stepped away at 65. But, now it’s time to go. That’s what the calendar tells me.”
During his decorated career, Nangle has received a vast amount of recognition throughout the state for his commitment to high school athletics. He served one year as the president of Minnesota High School Athletic Directors. In May 2011, he was inducted into the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame. Yet, amongst all those accolades, what he is most proud of is the strides that have been made in Pipestone during his career.
When he started as athletic director, the school had just purchased the plot of land for what is now Paulsen Athletic Field, which is still the site of most Pipestone Area home events. With state-of-the-art facilities, Pipestone has played host to numerous, conference, section and regional events under Nangle’s direction. Finished by the light of headlights from cars surrounding the field in 1975 — lights were installed the following summer — Paulsen and its all-weather track, the first in the area, was the site of the first conference track and field meet.
When the football team moved there in the fall of 1976, it was big step up from its previous home.
“We played at the fairgrounds and they’d hold wreck derbies there on the weekends,” Nangle said. “I’d take my phy ed classes out there on Monday to pick up the pieces of broken glass off the football field after they’d had a derby.”
He’s also proud of the relationships he’s built with fellow coaches and ADs over the years. One of his closest friends during that time has been Elmer Menage, who was the athletic director at Luverne from 1967-1998. Menage was a former track and field rival when the two were in high school and was his “campaign manager” when he ran for president of state athletic directors.
Menage said those relationships have been mutually appreciated.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” Menage said. “He was always a great person to work with. We always traveled and went to events together and treated each other with respect. We’ve been ‘battle buddies’ for longer than I know.”
So what’s next for Nangle in retirement? He said the summers have left him with ample opportunities to travel and visit most of the sites he’s wanted to see throughout his life. With retirement, he’ll just have the option to be a little more choosey on what he attends.
“I’ll still go to events,” he said. “But, if it’s rainy I don’t need to go to a football game. Or, if it’s below zero, I don’t have to go to a basketball game. I’ll still go to stuff, I can just be a little more selective.”