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Champenoy returning to college coaching

Champenoy steps down from Fort Lewis College, Durango High
Aaron Champenoy watches the Durango High School boys soccer team practice last season at DHS. Champenoy is heading to Montana State (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The Fort Lewis College Department of Athletics announced the resignation of Assistant Athletic Director for External Operations, Aaron Champenoy on Tuesday, effective on Friday.

Champenoy also was the head boys soccer coach at Durango High School, where he led the Demons to the 4A state quarterfinals for just the third time in the program’s history last fall. Champenoy coached DHS for four seasons, leading the Demons to a 46-11-5 record during his tenure. He also served as the assistant athletic director in 2018 and the high school athletic director in 2019 and 2020 before joining FLC’s staff last year.

Champenoy isn’t done coaching. He will return to the pitch as the head men’s soccer coach at Montana State University Billings after an impactful year at FLC.

“The whole decision was bittersweet,” Champenoy said. “I love the guys at the high school – we made it to the Elite 8 last year, and the culture and the relationships I built made it hard.”

At Fort Lewis, Champenoy said he was most proud of his efforts to help add lights to the Dirks’ soccer field, which were installed over the summer.

“That’s a super-exciting improvement for the programs at FLC,” he said. With Durango’s high school teams also expected to play under the lights, he said the lights are about more than just allowing night games take place, he said it should help make the field “a community gathering place.”

“I would like to thank former Director of Athletics Brandon Leimbach for allowing me to join the Fort Lewis College athletic department,” Champenoy said. “It has been an honor and pleasure to help lead the department as assistant athletic director and interim athletic director, and I feel confident in having left the program in a better place than I found it. I hope to have helped the Skyhawks grow to reach new levels of success while offering a different perspective to our administrative team.”

His most recent college coaching experience comes from Hastings College, an NAIA powerhouse that compiled a 43-3-2 record and the 2016 National Championship title during his stint. The native of Omaha, Nebraska, also coached the University of St. Thomas-Texas for nine seasons, bringing his college career coaching record to 175-91-19 over 15 seasons.

“We are excited to have Aaron join the department and lead the men’s soccer program,” said MSUB director of athletics Michael Bazemore, who made the appointment. “He brings a depth of experience with a proven track record of success, which includes a national championship and coach of the year accolades.”

His success was no different after transitioning into athletic administration. An advocate for continued improvement and the student-athlete experience, Champenoy could often be seen on the sidelines of home events, connecting with community members in hospitality areas, and representing Skyhawks athletics in the local community. In addition to his expertise in external operations, Champenoy served as interim director of athletics from April to July.

“I want to thank Aaron for all he has done for FLC Athletics. He has been helpful in my transition while providing interim leadership for the department in addition to doing a wonderful job as assistant AD,” said Director of Athletics Travis Whipple. “We will certainly miss Aaron, but we wish him well as he follows his passion and returns to the sidelines.”

Champenoy replaces Thomas Chameraud, who announced last month that he would opt to not renew his contract after three seasons in charge of the Yellowjacket men's soccer program.

“My passion has really always been the interaction with student athletes and to put all of my energy into coaching, I’m looking forward to it quite a bit,” Champenoy said.

The Yellowjackets kick off their 2022 campaign with three preseason exhibition contests the week of Aug. 13. Champenoy will report Aug. 1, his players report Aug. 5, and they can start practicing Aug. 8.

“At some point, maybe our paths will cross again because I absolutely loved being here,” Champenoy said about Durango.