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North Dakota State University head football coach Criag Bohl leaves the Fargodome Sunday, Dec.8, 2013.after addressing his team to tell them he is leaving for a job in Wyoming.David Samson / The Forum

NDSU athletic director said Bohl will coach Bison until season's end

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FARGO – North Dakota State athletic director Gene Taylor said Sunday afternoon that Craig Bohl will coach the North Dakota State football team the rest of the season, capping an emotional, topsy-turvy weekend that will rival any in Bison football history for drama.

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Bohl was named the head coach at the University of Wyoming in an emotional press conference in Laramie on Sunday night, where he broke down twice when talking about the Bison players and Taylor, who he thanked for taking a chance on a guy with no head coaching experience.

“The reason I got to be here is because of exceptional, remarkable group of young men,” Bohl told the gathering at Wyoming Wildcatter Stadium Club & Suites.

He will return to the team today. All of the Bison assistant coaches will also remain with the team until the end of the season, Taylor said.

Behind the scenes, things started to look suspicious when Taylor said he talked with Bohl about the position during their weekly Friday meeting. But he said Bohl had yet to make up his mind. One day later, the No. 1-ranked Bison defeated Furman University (S.C.) 38-7 in the second round of the FCS playoffs and all seemed normal in the world of the two-time defending national champions.

That changed later Saturday night. That’s when Bohl, after the game, told Taylor he accepted the job, Taylor said.

“When I saw that Wyoming was open, I knew they would come after Craig,” Taylor said. “When I saw the salary structure, I knew this was going to be a tough one.”

Fired Cowboys coach Dave Christensen had a total package of $1.2 million per season and reports indicate Bohl’s total package will be between $1.2 million and $1.3 million with a base salary of $750,000. His base salary at NDSU was $206,000, although incentives pushed it to around $350,000 last year.

Bohl will owe NDSU a $100,000 buyout per his contract. He will also not be allowed to contact any current Bison recruits. NDSU has 14 verbal commitments for the 2014 recruiting class.

“We will manage that as best we can,” Taylor said. “I think Craig will be respectful of that.”

Bison players were not available for comment on Sunday. Taylor met with the team Sunday morning in what he called a players-only meeting and as they left the room, most seemed quiet.

One of the topics at the Taylor news conference: why wasn’t the team notified first? Taylor said Bohl was going to wait until Sunday morning, but once the initial reports surfaced on social media, it didn’t take long for everybody to find out.

“We probably should have notified the kids last night,” Taylor said. “Nobody wants to find out the way they found out. … I couldn’t be more proud of the way they handled this.”

Taylor said he wasn’t shocked Bohl’s announcement came so abruptly, saying on more than one occasion he knew this day was coming. Bohl took the Bison job in 2003 when the school was still an NCAA Division II school and built it into a Division I FCS power despite weathering a five-year Division I reclassification.

Earlier Sunday, Bohl confirmed on his weekly coaches’ show that he is Wyoming-bound.

“There is no perfect time, but I can tell you the No. 1 goal is the 2013 Bison,” Bohl said during the broadcast. “For us to take our football team as far as it can go. They’re not easy times. North Dakota State is a very, very special place in my heart. There’s been 11 years that I invested here.”

CBS Sports first reported Saturday that Bohl was going to be named the next head coach at Wyoming. The Bison have won back-to-back FCS national championships and are in the midst of a run for a third consecutive national crown.

Bohl said Wyoming reached out to his representation during the week.

“I had very limited contact at all,” Bohl said.

Bohl met with the Bison players at 9 a.m. in a meeting that lasted about 15 minutes. He declined comment as he left the NDSU team room in the lower level of the Fargodome.

Meanwhile, the team started preparations for Saturday’s quarterfinal game against Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers defeated Montana on the road on Saturday and will make another plane flight west this weekend. On their end, head coach Joe Moglia told the Carolina Forest Chronicle newspaper that he didn’t think the Bohl news will be any kind of advantage for CCU.

“They have won the last two national championships, have been ranked No. 1 all season, were seeded first in the playoffs, they will know what to do,” Moglia said. “They won’t miss a beat.”

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Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.
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