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North Dakota State AD receiving early Christmas gifts

FARGO — Prior to North Dakota State’s dominating 48-14 football playoff win, Gene Taylor, the 56-year-old athletic director at NDSU, was as giddy as a 10-year-old about to open his Christmas presents. There were no signs of stress caused by last week’s announcement that Craig Bohl, the most successful football coach in NDSU history, was departing for Wyoming.

Here are some presents that had Taylor beaming Saturday:

- A new basketball arena? Check.

- A men’s basketball victory over a major-college team? Check.

- Another football playoff victory? Check.

- A new football coach?

This may not be crossed off Taylor’s Christmas wish list, but this gift may already be wrapped — just waiting to be opened.

All signs are pointing to defensive coordinator Chris Klieman becoming the new head coach. It just may be a matter of when Taylor wants to make this announcement — perhaps as early as today or later this week. Even Joe Moglia, the head coach of the Coastal Carolina team that got throttled by the Bison on Saturday, seemed to know who the next coach was going to be.

“I have no doubt that the defensive coordinator that I think that you have promoted here …. he has been promoted right?” Moglia said during his postgame news conference.

“Unofficially,” someone responded.

“Unofficially?” Moglia said. “Well, whoever that guy is going to be is inheriting a great program.”

Officially or unofficially, Klieman makes sense for a number of reasons.

Someone from the current staff will help maintain the continuity of what Bohl has built during his 11 seasons here. Klieman also has experience. He was a main assistant at Northern Iowa for nine seasons, was a head coach at Division III Loras College of Iowa plus had assistant coaching stints at Missouri State, Kansas and Western Illinois.

If Klieman indeed wants to become a head coach, this would be the place to do it.

Even though 24 seniors will graduate from this team that is aiming for a third straight national championship, there will be plenty of players back next year to make the Bison a contender again. If he wants to become a head coach at a bigger school someday, this would be the place to start.

Then there is the issue of money. If Klieman were to go with Bohl to Wyoming, he would at least double his current salary of $100,000. But he would probably make more here as the head coach, especially if Taylor decides to equal or increase the $206,000 base salary that Bohl was making.

Not that he needs to impress Taylor even more, but Klieman added another highlight to his impressive resume after Saturday’s game. When the Bison built a 31-0 lead with two minutes left of the first half, Klieman’s defense had limited Coastal Carolina to 35 total yards.

That’s amazing in any game, let alone a playoff game. It’s even more amazing against a Coastal Carolina team that was averaging nearly 43 points and 500 total yards per game.

There has been a lot of talk that many of NDSU’s assistants will leave with Bohl for Wyoming, including Klieman.

When asked about his assistant coaches’ ability to focus for Saturday’s game, Bohl had this to say during his postgame news conference:

“I can tell you that their hours and the game prep and attention to detail was there all week. Here’s the bottom line: This coaching staff and this football team is committed to excellence and running the course as far as we can go this year. Period.

“I understand that there are legitimate questions as far as maintaining focus and attention and on and on and on … this is not an unfocused football team or coaching staff. It’s a really important stretch that we’ve got going on here, so there will not be any ‘I’ that is not dotted or any ‘T’ that is not crossed. That doesn’t ensure any victories, but I guarantee you the preparation will be there.”

It showed before another sellout crowd at the Fargodome and in front of an ESPN nationwide television audience.

The Bison were clicking on all cylinders. About the only negatives Bison fans may take from this game are: Coastal Carolina quarterback Alex Ross claiming last week’s game at Montana was louder than the Fargodome ,or Moglia saying South Carolina (a team that spanked his squad 70-10 last month) would beat the Bison. Rest easy Bison Nation. Moglia added: “But I think they (the Bison) would give South Carolina a game.”

NDSU’s dominating performance made many Bison fans forget about Bohl’s departure — at least for now.

While Klieman’s defense ended up limiting Coastal Carolina to 281 total yards, Brent Vigen’s offense piled up 623 total yards. Vigen, the Buxton, N.D., native and former Bison player, is the offensive coordinator who has also been mentioned as a possible replacement for Bohl.

It remains to be seen if Taylor offers the job to Klieman or Vigen, or if he opts to do a national search. Either way, NDSU is going to get a pretty good head coach.

Let Moglia, the coach who became a millionaire as a CEO of a brokerage firm, explain why:

“I think North Dakota State is a great place to coach. It’s a great part of the country. You’ve got a great state. It’s financially sound … that’s not true for a lot of states in the union. And, there is a tremendous tradition.”

A tradition strengthened with Craig Bohl. And a tradition that will continue with whoever replaces him.

Schnepf is the sports editor of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum News Service

Kevin Schnepf
Kevin Schnepf is the sports editor for The Forum. He has been working at The Forum since 1986.
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