Defensive coordinator Chris Klieman named NDSU's head football coach
FARGO – The North Dakota State football players found out about their head coach leaving for Wyoming last weekend on social media. The announcement of their next head coach was done in a more orderly fashion.
For starters: they were the first to know on Sunday morning. Athletic director Gene Taylor introduced Chris Klieman to succeed Craig Bohl 1½ hours after he told the team, a personnel move that was not surprising considering Klieman’s background and the fact the job was not opened to a national search.
“It’s a special day for me and my family,” Klieman said. “This is a special place.”
Bohl accepted the head coaching position at Wyoming one week ago, but will stay at NDSU through the end of his 11th year. The Bison host New Hampshire Friday night in the FCS semifinals, with the winner getting a trip to Frisco, Texas, for the national title game.
Taylor said he and Klieman have agreed on a five-year contract with a starting base salary of $261,000. Media and camp appearances bring that guarantee to $326,000.
The total figure is similar to Bohl’s current contract, which has a base of $206,000 plus incentives that bring the potential value to more than $350,000 if all bonuses are met.
Bohl’s bonus of 3 percent of gross ticket sales will not be in Klieman’s deal, but the base salary was raised to compensate for that, Taylor said.
He said the assistants’ pool of $567,000 will not change.
Klieman (pronounced Kly-man), 47, is completing his third season at NDSU and his second as the defensive coordinator. He met briefly with Taylor last Monday and expressed his interest in the job on Thursday.
Extensive talks did not happen until after the 48-14 win over Coastal Carolina on Saturday. The two talked at Taylor’s house for about three hours.
“I needed to look him eye-to-eye,” Taylor said. “Chris is stepping into a big job, it’s not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination, and I needed to be convinced he was ready to do that. He gave me an excellent game plan with his vision.”
Klieman said he will formulate his staff after the Bison’s season is done. He said he will first talk to the current assistants, or at least the ones that don’t follow Bohl to Wyoming. He said NDSU’s Tampa 2 defense and West Coast offense philosophies will not change and he will hire coaches to fit those systems.
But for now, “my challenge is getting ready for New Hampshire this week,” he said.
Klieman acknowledged it will not be easy following Bohl, who took over a program in 2003 that was coming off a 2-8 season in Division II. NDSU had consecutive 10-1 seasons during the five-year Division I reclassification and has won 40 of their last 42 games that included two FCS national titles.
“Without a doubt, it’s hard to follow what Coach has done,” Klieman said. “It’s really hard to follow what Coach has done. But it’s one of the top jobs in FCS and my opportunity is presented to me.”
In one respect, the hiring of Klieman has roots back to the rise of NDSU football. His head coach at Northern Iowa as a player was former Bison head coach Darrell Mudra, who was in charge of the Bison in the mid-1960s when they turned the program into a national power.
“I just think there’s going to be a new face in front of the room with a lot of the same ideas, a lot of the same passion,” Klieman said.
He joined the Bison staff in March 2011 as defensive backs coach following a nine-year stay at UNI, where he was the defensive coordinator, co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach from 2006-10 under head coach Mark Farley and 1991-93 under then head coach Terry Allen, who is now at Missouri State.
NDSU will be Klieman’s second head coaching job. He was the head coach for one season at Division III member Loras College (Iowa) where he went 3-7 in an injury-plagued 2005 season. He had been the defensive coordinator at Loras the previous three seasons and transformed the Duhawks into one of the Iowa Conference’s most feared defensive units.
NDSU has led the nation in scoring defense each of Klieman’s three years on staff, and the Bison have improved every year. NDSU allowed 12.73 points allowed per game in 2011 and are allowing just 11.4 points per game this season. He was named the 2012 Football Scoop FCS Coordinator of the Year and has coached a two-time Buck Buchanan Award finalist in cornerback Marcus Williams.
A native of Waterloo, Iowa, Klieman was a three-time All-Gateway Conference defensive back at Northern Iowa and a four-year letter winner from 1986-90. He graduated from UNI in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in health education and earned a master’s degree in physical education from UNI in 1992.
Following his playing career, Klieman was an assistant coach for the Panthers from 1991-93. He also had assistant coaching stints at Western Illinois (1994-96), Kansas (1997), Missouri State (1999) and Loras (2001-04).
Klieman and his wife, Rhonda, are the parents of two sons, Devin and Colby, and one daughter, Haley.
“My family loves it here,” Chris Klieman said. “We want to continue the tradition. I know it’s going to be hard but as a coach you love challenges.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found