For 22 full seasons, the face of the Middlebury Football program was Head Coach Bob Ritter, who led the team to three NESCAC championships and mentored many generations of student-athletes. For 11 of those years, Doug Mandigo ’96 worked alongside Ritter as the team’s defensive coordinator, helping to build Middlebury football into the program it is today. Ritter stepped into the role of Assistant Athletic Director this past December, leaving Mandigo to take over as the Michael G. Heinecken Head Coach of Football.
Looking to build upon an already successful history, here is what you need to know about Mandigo as he enters his first season as head coach.
Who is Doug Mandigo?
Mandigo is an alumnus of both Middlebury College and its football program, returning to the sidelines in 2011 after graduating from Middlebury in 1996 and accruing an array of coaching experience in various sports, including hockey, baseball and softball. Since returning to Middlebury, Ritter has served as defensive coordinator and linebacker coach for the football team before taking the role of Associate Head Coach for the 2022 season. Despite the appearance of a dramatic leadership change, Mandigo has been an integral part of Middlebury’s coaching staff for more than a decade, helping to develop a culture of respect, support and accountability between athletes, coaching staff and community.
So, what’s new?
Since assuming the role of head coach, Mandigo’s responsibilities have vastly expanded and he now has greater administrative responsibility. “Just like Coach Ritter did, I want to utilize all of the experience, intelligence and know-how [of the entire coaching staff] to make our program better every day,” Mandigo told The Campus.
In any college sport, the head coach plays a critical role in the lives of their athletes. Perhaps even more so at the Division III level, the program focuses on developing players’ character off the field. This, however, is far easier said than done for a head coach responsible for the well-being and success of 103 players. As a head coach still adjusting to his new post, it remains to be seen how Mandigo will navigate building impactful relationships with each player on a team of this size. For now, however, the core of his philosophy is building a culture of mutual respect.
For Mandigo, the path toward a culture that encourages excellence on the field is intricately linked to the athletes’ positive influence in the community. Looking forward, he will continue to support the team's community service goals, emphasizing respect and accountability in the team culture from all angles. Further, his holistic view of the program is highlighted by the team’s academic standing as the highest-performing football team in the NESCAC for eight years running, with 44 players selected for all-academic honors last fall — the most of any Middlebury sports team.
The bottom line
No one knows Middlebury football better than Mandigo, and right now all signs indicate that his expertise as a veteran of the program will translate to a smooth transition of power.
The team is 2–1 so far this season after taking down the Bowdoin College Polar Bears last Saturday (34–27) and is well-positioned for another successful season. The Panthers will return to action as they face the Williams College Ephs in Williamstown, Mass. on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 2 p.m.