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Kolpack: Jaguars reporter, a ND native, knows new coaches well

FARGO -- The look from Bob Babich was something of a sarcastic, "Who do you think you are?" whenever I picked against North Dakota State in The Forum's weekly college football predictions.

At least it seemed sarcastic.

Maybe he was serious. I could never really tell.

The years were 1997-2002 when Babich was the head Bison coach. One of his top assistants was Gus Bradley, and we all know what has happened in the last week.

Bradley was named the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and he immediately turned to Babich for his defensive coordinator. That's a long way, and a few more zeroes in the paycheck, from caring about Jeff Forum Writer picking against the Bison.

When they were here, they were fair.

Case in point: in the final week of the 2002 season when the Bison went 2-8, I wrote a piece attempting to explain the losing record. It wasn't a pretty read. I ran into Babich in the Bison Sports Arena foyer the next day, probably expecting a lashing along the lines of Doug Simunic vs. Bad Umpire.

His response: "I can't deny any of it."

And if that fairness hasn't changed, there is no better situation for Ryan O'Halloran, a West Fargo High School graduate who covers the Jaguars for the Florida Times-Union newspaper.

"He's pretty genuine," O'Halloran said of Bradley. "He particularly has a positive attitude for a team that really needs it."

O'Halloran is a veteran NFL beat guy having covered Mike Mularkey with the Jaguars and Washington Redskins head coaches Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn and Mike Shanahan when he worked in Washington, D.C., mostly with the Washington Times.

"Bradley's energy and enthusiasm is off the charts compared to the other head coaches I've covered," O'Halloran said.

He and Bradley had a brief discussion about West Fargo on Wednesday morning at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

"He said, 'We have to talk about West Fargo for a minute,'" O'Halloran said. "He basically wanted my history."

They talked about old Dacotah Field, where Bradley played when he was a Bison safety in the 1980s. They talked about how O'Halloran's parents still live in West Fargo.

Jacksonville went 2-14 last year, and there was probably a good reason for the coaching change: The team wasn't very good.

With a .125 winning percentage, there most likely will be more losses than wins next year. In his introductory news conference, Bradley played it safe, saying the goal is to get better every day and not worry about wins and losses. Good move.

If Ryan is fair in his assessments, expect Gus to be fair in his answers. That's all any beat writer can ask for.

Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is a part of Forum News Service. Email him at and read his blog at