Schnepf: Be happy for Bohl
FARGO -- It was moments after North Dakota State’s FCS playoff victory on Saturday when Craig Bohl was asked his thoughts on his football team’s next opponent: Coastal Carolina.
“I do know that their head coach is a billionaire,” Bohl quipped during the postgame news conference, referring to Coastal Carolina head coach Joe Moglia, reportedly worth $150 million after cashing in as a chief executive officer with an online brokerage firm from 2001 to 2008.
In a room filled with media and NDSU officials, Bohl may have been the only person at that time knowing he was about to become a millionaire.
While Bohl was answering questions about his team’s 38-7 win over Furman, there was a report floating around that he was moving to Wyoming. It became official Sunday when Wyoming announced him as its new head coach for a reported salary of $1.5 million – nearly five times the amount he was making as NDSU’s head coach.
You would think his wife Ryan Kelly, who attended the postgame news conference, would surely have known while her husband answered questions.
Athletic director Gene Taylor was aware Bohl had talked to Wyoming officials last week, but didn’t know during the postgame news conference that he had accepted the job.
“He told me after the game,” Taylor said.
The players, including the 24 seniors who have produced a 49-7 record and two national championships in the last four seasons, did not know during the postgame news conference. Their tweets of surprise and shock Saturday night confirmed that.
About the only thing that would have been more shocking would have been a Bison loss. Just as shocking was the timing of this announcement.
A big reason Bohl has become NDSU’s all-time winningest coach is his persistence of maintaining the same routine year after year. Now, with the Bison three wins from a third straight national championship, that routine has been capsized. The smooth-sailing ship has hit its biggest wave.
“There is never a good time for potential coaching changes,” Bohl said during his Sunday coaches’ show.
“Nobody wants to find out the way they did,” Taylor said during a Sunday news conference. “I know those players are hurt, sad and frustrated.”
But also motivated. The players insisted, according to Taylor, that they wanted Bohl to stay with the team as long as they keep winning.
The seniors have always found ways to motivate themselves. That’s not easy when you have already attained the ultimate goal not once, but twice. You may very well see this group use this untimely situation as a way to become even more focused for a third straight national championship.
It’s quite possible if they reach the Jan. 4 championship game in Frisco, Texas, the Bison could have a new coach hired for next season while Bohl is coaching them one last time.
“I want to move as quickly as we can,” Taylor said of finding a replacement for the 55-year-old man who during his 11 years with the Bison has built a 101-32 record, an 11-1 playoff record and a 7-3 record against FBS teams.
Numbers like that are hard to ignore – especially for a program like Wyoming, which has only 21 winning years in the past 52 seasons. Bohl will become the 14th head coach at Wyoming since 1961 – a year the Cowboys were coached by Bob Devaney, who went on to win national championships at Bohl’s alma mater Nebraska.
The prevailing sentiment in regards to Bohl’s future was that it would take a winning program like Nebraska to convince him to leave Fargo. So when Wyoming appeared on the radar this past week, many considered such a move as a lateral one.
“It is a step up, obviously financially,” Taylor said. “When I saw its (head coaching job) was open at Wyoming, I knew they would come after Craig.”
Wyoming currently competes in the Mountain West Conference – a league in which Fresno State beat Utah State for its conference championship Saturday night. There are rumors that Wyoming is lobbying to join the Big 12 Conference. If that happens, Bohl’s move to Laramie makes even more sense.
His first season won’t be easy. The Cowboys are scheduled to play at Oregon and at Michigan State. In 2015, Bohl would get to play the University of North Dakota again. And in 2016, Bohl would get to coach against Nebraska – the program he idolized while growing up in Lincoln, Neb., a program he played for and a program he coached for until he was basically run out of town as a defensive coordinator.
This year’s Wyoming team, which finished with a 5-7 record, nearly won at Nebraska in a season-opening 37-34 loss. After Wyoming piled up more than 500 total yards, the campaign to get rid of Huskers head coach Bo Pellini began. Bohl’s name was mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Pellini.
But with the recent support of Nebraska’s athletic director, Pellini’s job appears to be safe for now.
In a recent conversation with Bohl, I got the sense that he does not like the direction Nebraska’s football program is headed. I got the sense he still has strong feelings for Nebraska football, enough that he would take the head coaching job if asked.
That’s the type of job many of us thought would lure Bohl out of Fargo. Instead, it was Wyoming – much to the dismay of many Bison fans.
“I understand those frustrations,” Taylor said. “You hate to see that kind of change. I’m not upset. I’m happy for him.”
Despite the awkward timing of all this, perhaps we should all be happy for Bohl – if not for his new job, then for what he did with what will soon become his old job.
Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com.