Football, 1960-63; Football Coach, 1976-85
Inducted March 5, 1988
Rich Johanningmeier had a highly-successful SMSU athletic career as both a player and coach, gaining All-American honors as a football lineman in his playing days and winding up with the second highest victory total on record in his years as the Bears’ grid coach. He came to SMSU in 1960 and was a three-year starter for the Bears at both offensive and defensive tackle, gaining MIAA all-conference recognition as a junior and senior. The St. Louis native was a first team Little All-American selection as a senior and was given the Virgil Cheek Athletic Achievement Award when he graduated from SMSU in 1964. Playing for Coach Orville Pottenger, Johanningmeier was a standout on the unbeaten SMSU team of 1963 as the Bears went through the regular campaign at 9-0 to capture the MIAA title and go on to the Mineral Water Bowl game. Johanningmeier briefly played professional football after he graduated from SMSU and then began a career of more than 10 years as a college assistant at American International, Vermont and Connecticut. He returned to take over as the Bears’ head coach in 1976, and, in a 10-year career, posted a mark of 58-44-5 to trail only A. W. Briggs in all-time victories among SMSU head coaches. Johanningmeier’s Bears had seven winning seasons in his 10-year tenure, including the time during which the SMSU program was making the transition from the MIAA and Division II competition of first the Mid-Continent and later the Gateway Conference on the NCAA Division I-AA level. During that transition, SMSU slipped below .500 only twice and returned with winning seasons his final two years. Including a 1978 team which was 8-3 overall and went undefeated to what was the last MIAA grid title for SMSU. Johanningmeier gave SMSU the best overall mark in the MIAA in the five years he coached in that circuit. His 1978 and 1979 teams were two of the most potent offensive machines in Bear grid history, with the top two seasons ever in terms of points scored and total yardage gained. About two thirds of all the individual and team records on the SMSU books came during the Johanningmeier era and he brought the Bears back into the national prominence as his team led the nation’s I-AA schools in team rushing in his final year of 1985.