MOUNT VERNON, Iowa (1-2-20) – Dan Pifer has been named Cornell College’s new head football coach, it was announced Monday by Director of Athletics Keith Hackett.
Pifer brings 24 years of coaching experience to the Hilltop, highlighted by five combined conference championships during recent stints at Olivet (Mich.) College from 2012-16, and Trine (Ind.) University from 2006-11.
“Dan Pifer comes to Cornell with a long resume of success at the Division III level. He was part of two very significant turnarounds at Trine University as its offensive coordinator and at Olivet College as its head coach. Both institutions became conference champions multiple times, and NCAA postseason participants.
“Coach Pifer has the background and knowledge to get it done at the D3 level. We are excited about the future of Cornell Rams Football.”
A press conference will be held in January to introduce Pifer to the media and campus community.
Pifer, a native of Celina, Ohio, is Cornell’s 15th head football coach since 1902. He replaces Vince Brautigam, who compiled a 42-56 record in 10 seasons at the helm.
The 2019 Rams finished 4-5 overall and placed fourth in the Midwest Conference South Division with a 1-3 record.
Pifer, a 1995 graduate from California University of Pennsylvania –
“I’m excited for this opportunity and anxious to get to work. The administration at Cornell has been very supportive from the President on down. They want to win. We want to turn this into a conference-championship caliber program. I don’t think we’re that far off. It’s nice to come into a place that’s not a total rebuild.”
Pifer engineered a quick and successful rebuild at Olivet College, which owned the nation’s longest losing streak with a five-year record of 2-48. Pifer, whose initial 2012 team finished 0-10 there, increased the football roster by 145 players and went on to post four consecutive winning seasons for the first time in school history.
Pifer’s 2016 Olivet team finished 9-2, went 6-0 in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) and qualified for the NCAA playoffs. In 2015, the Comets set a school record for wins (9-1) and were co-champions of the MIAA. Olivet finished 6-4 in 2013 and 2014.
Pifer coached Olivet’s only two first team all-Americans and broke 14 school records. He raised the team’s grade point average from 2.30 to 2.98.
“We’ll go to work and have fun at the same time. We’ll hit the ground running with recruiting. Recruiting is priority No. 1, and then recruiting the state of Iowa. The new athletics facilities here in a couple years will be huge. We’re here to win conference titles. That’s what we’re shooting for. We want to make Cornell’s football program something everyone can be proud of.”
Prior to Olivet, Pifer had an impactful six years as offensive coordinator, recruiting coordinator and special teams coach at Trine University. The Thunder claimed undefeated MIAA titles and earned NCAA berths in 2008 (10-1), 2009 (10-2) and 2010 (11-1). Trine fashioned 20-game MIAA and home winning streaks and ranked eighth in Division III attendance in 2010.
Under Pifer’s direction, Trine landed the 2010 Gagliardi Trophy winner (D3 Heisman Trophy) and fielded the No. 1 scoring offense (46.0 ppg) in Division III that season.
Pifer’s teams over the years have produced 61 all-conference players, three all-Americans, two academic all-Americans, seven Conference Players of the Year and two Pete Schmidt Scholar Athlete Award winners.
“We conducted an exhaustive national search over a 30-day period with the assistance of CarrSports. We had a strong candidate pool. In the end, it became clear that Dan’s background was what we needed to turn around the football program at Cornell.”
In 2019, Pifer was an assistant on Saline (Mich.) High School’s 8-1 conference championship and playoff team. He was director of player personnel at Division I Bowling Green State University in 2018, after spending one season as head coach at Division II Walsh (Ohio) University. Walsh won more games in 2017 (four) than the previous two seasons combined (three).
Pifer has also held assistant roles at Bellmont (Ind.) High School (2000, 2003-05), Division II Hillsdale (Mich.) College (2002), NAIA’s University (Ind.) of St. Francis (1997-99), Milford (Ohio) High School (1996) and Division II Saint Joseph’s (Ind.) College (1995). He was part of a start-up program at St. Francis, helping lead it to the 1999 NAIA playoffs.
Pifer earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from California University of Pennsylvania, where he was a four-year starter and set numerous passing records as quarterback for the Vulcans.
Pifer and his wife, Connie, have six children.