Nelson: Maybe a fiery redhead is the answer for UND
GRAND FORKS — For 15 years, a mandatory stop at Memorial Stadium was Bubba Schweigert’s office — the one located farthest from the head coach’s digs. Rarely did anyone leave Schweigert’s office in a bad mood.
Bubba always looked at the bright side; always had a visitor chuckling; and more times than not nervously rubbed his hands together — giving you the impression that he had more to say than what he was telling you.
For those of us who knew Bubba during his years as a University of North Dakota assistant, we also knew this about the German redhead assistant coach from Zeeland: Few coaches are as fiery and as passionate about football as Bubba.
While on the UND staff, there was nothing worse for Bubba than a loss to North Dakota State.
In his earlier days as a player and assistant coach at the University of Jamestown, there was nothing worse for Bubba and his fellow Pumpkin Heads than a loss to rival Valley City State.
It’s also a safe assumption that Bubba had a few meltdowns the last six seasons in Carbondale, Ill., where he was the defensive coordinator and associate head coach on Dale Lennon’s staff.
Officially, Bubba came back to UND on Tuesday as he was named the school’s 26th head football coach. Unofficially, he’s the same guy he was 15 years ago, now with a new title.
UND went on a national search to find its new coach, a 30-plus day process that frustrated and infuriated fans hoping the North Dakota program wouldn’t skip a beat in the transition of one coaching staff to another.
Well, for better or worse, it doesn’t work that way in North Dakota.
University policy and the transparency that existed in the search lengthened the process and may or may not have deterred potential applicants from applying.
For what UND was presented during the search, North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison made a logical choice. And, quite frankly, it’s probably a good choice, too.
Bubba is a North Dakotan. He wore UND football apparel for 15 years and probably still has some green and white clothing in the back of his closet.
However, this, perhaps more than anything, is what’s the most important: Bubba knows defense.
During the past two seasons, a number of UND defensive players likely should have been issued asbestos underwear during Big Sky Conference games.
The Big Sky is an offensive-minded league, no question about it. To get in a track meet with the Big Sky powers, however, may be a bit unrealistic for a program just out of its Division I transition.
Maybe a dose of fiery, in-your-face defense is what’s needed first.
Bubba’s hiring is not a shock. In fact, when his application came in — on the last day they were allowed — he immediately became one of the favorites to land the job.
His hiring, detractors will say, keeps UND football in the hands of the so-called “good ’ol boy” network.
But maybe a fiery, defensive-minded redheaded coach from tiny Zeeland, where the true meaning of work ethic and passion exists, is just what UND needs.
Nelson is the sports editor of the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum News Service.