The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference has named 2004 Golden High School alum and Bemidji State University offensive coordinator Karson Pike as its 2021 Assistant Coach of the Year.
In his fifth season with BSU, Pike coordinated the nation’s fifth-best passing offense and seventh-best total offense, according to a press statement from the university.
“I’m pretty proud of it,” said Pike of the recent honor. “I told my guys that while there’s only a single name on this award, it truly represents our unit as a whole.”
Pike, who began his professional coaching career in 2007 at Central Lakes College while finishing his undergraduate degree at St. Cloud University, said much of his success stems from the support of his coaches and mentors.
“But most pop up as coaches,” Pike said. “In little league, we had a lot of great guys, good teammates, and we were always pushing ourselves—and the dads that were involved were great, too.”
Specifically, Pike notes that GHS QB Coach Don Trickle and Central Lakes College Offensive Coach Jim Strohmeier significantly influenced his life and career.
But Pike’s father, Brian Pike, a former GHS receivers coach, said that knee pain sidelined his son just as his college playing career at St. Cloud University was about to take off.
“He said, `Dad, I think I’m going to take off a year and just focus on school, for now,” Brian said.
That detour and his relationship with Strohmeier would soon put the former GHS standout quarterback on the path to professional coaching.
After learning of Karson’s decision to sit out for a season, Strohmeier helped arrange a stipend coaching position at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, MN. Karson had played quarterback there from 2005-06, and led the team to its first winning season in seven years.
Karson had to be creative with time management to make the position happen.
“So, I’d schedule my classes early in the day and then jump in the car and drive,” he said. “And then I cut my teeth coaching while trying to finish my undergraduate degree at St. Cloud.”
The drive made for long days, but Karson insists the sacrifice was worth it.
He had plenty of headspace in the car during the two-and-a-half-hour roundtrip drive between the two Minnesota cities.
During that time, Karson said he’d mentally prioritize his studies, not just football, but academics as well.
“On the way back, I’d try to reflect on interactions with the kids and just how I was going to map out getting into college coaching because it’s not easy,” he said.
Karson added that he also started building a list of goals.
“Not just about football, but also for my life,” he said. “So on the drive, I’d try to make a note on my phone—and I think I ended up with something like 137 goals.”
He admits he’s “added a few and scratched a few,” but they have been a driving force in his success.
These days, Karson’s commute is much shorter, but his hours are just as long. As the assistant coach and offensive coordinator for Bemidji State University, his days begin early.
“I’m usually in the office by 6:16 a.m.,” he explained. “Then I do a lot of meetings with staff, review film, and then by the afternoon, we’ve got academics and are getting ready for practice.”
During the season, practice runs from about 3:50 to 6 p.m.
“After practice, I’m back in the office to wrap things up, make a few recruiting calls and then head home by 7 p.m. to cook dinner, review film and make more recruiting calls,” Karson said.
Summing his journey so far, Karson said he feels that many of the great memories he’s had along the way have provided him with the positive experiences he’s now able to share with others.
It also keenly illustrates the value of hard work and good relationships.
“I certainly have a lot of pride on my end,” said Karson of his award. “Just being in the collection of names that are now head coaches within the conference—It’s quite an honor.”
According to his BSU website profile, Karson was a notable high school quarterback. He was named 2004 First Team Offensive Specialist Mountain Plains League. He played five different positions as a team captain and helped GHS to a second-place finish in the Colorado state tournament in 2003.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in physical and health education from St. Cloud State University and a master’s degree in sports studies from BSU.
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