BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s been more than two and a half decades since somebody besides John Stiegelmeier has sat in the football coaches office at SDSU.

But after a historic career, that included the programs first ever National Championship, the longtime coach is hanging up his whistle.

“It’s my pleasure to introduce John Stiegelmeier, head football coach, South Dakota State University,” former Athletic Director Fred Oien said.

John Stiegelmeier — Introductory Press Conference — December 29, 1996

John Stiegelmeier was promoted from defensive coordinator, to head coach on December 29, 1996.

“I remember thinking, what a blessing this is, to be the head coach of the South Dakota State football team,” Stiegelmeier said.

Stiegelmeier was named the new coach, just four days after Christmas, leading to one of his favorite gifts of all time.

“I think quite often, we ask each other or ask loved ones what would you like for Christmas and I guess this is the best Christmas present I could ask for,” Stiegelmeier said in 1996.

Now, more than 26 years later, it’s understood that the gift was to the entire Stiegelmeier family.

“It was an honor to be the head coach, so it has to be one of the top, experiences or Christmas gifts that we’ve had, but it’s been a family thing,” Stiegelmeier said.

And that gift has provided plenty of memories for John and his family, including the chance for his grandkids to sit on the National Championship press conference.

“Sometimes, you have a job that allows you to make more memories with people. That was so fun to have those four little people there. I know their parents were off to the left and nervous, but I was totally comfortable with them,” Stiegelmeier said.

As Stiegelmeier neared the idea of retiring, the university put together a plan, to find their next coach. That process began a few years ago.

“Knowing that him and Laurie need to retire at some point, the last couple weeks, getting past the National Championship and having those conversations about a week ago, in earnest. Then setting a date in this last Tuesday, to say yeah, this is it,” Director of Athletics Justin Sell said.

“This process started a number of years ago by looking at some of the coaches on our staff. My top goal was to have a coach, from this hallway become the head coach,” Stiegelmeier said.

And that goal came to fruition, as the current defensive coordinator, Jimmy Rogers was named the 21st coach in program history.

“To have part of your family take it over and know that it’ll be ran, slightly different maybe, but with the same goals and spirit and love,” Jimmy Rogers said.

As the Jimmy Rogers era begins in Brookings, the appreciation for coach Stig amplifies.

“He is the university and how he lives. He reflects our cultural values. If you look at our core values within the university, he lives every single one of them, every single day, with every single reaction,” Sell said.

And now, for the first time in a long time, the winningest coach in SDSU history, will be cheering from the stands.

“Next fall will be hard. It will be unique. It’ll be fun. It’ll be all those things wrapped up, but I’m going to be a fan and if I’m close enough to the field, I’ll still yell at the officials. But I’m going to celebrate the victories, again through the football team, from a distance,” Stiegelmeier said.

Stiegelmeier leaves SDSU with 199 career wins and 12 postseason appearances.