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The new Cowboy: North Dakota State head football coach Bohl accepts job at Wyoming

FNS Photo by David Samson North Dakota State head football coach Craig Bohl arrives back in Fargo on Monday after returning from Laramie, Wyo., where he will take over as the new head football coach.

By Scott Nulph / Special Forum News Service

LARAMIE, Wyo. – Craig Bohl looked around his North Dakota State football program and wondered what else he could accomplish with the Bison.

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His program won the last two FCS national titles and are favorites to do it again this season. Bohl also knew there were limited programs that fit his style of coaching and commitment.

Yet, when the University of Wyoming came calling about being its next head coach, Bohl felt it was the right fit and the right time to make a change. On Sunday, Bohl was named the 32nd head coach in Wyoming football history.

“What has been done at North Dakota State, I look at it and say, ‘I don’t know if there is more things for me that I can do with that institution,’” Bohl said. “I see great promise here and along with that a great fit. I’ve always appreciated the heartiness of Wyoming, and I think in this geographical area the guys are going to fit the style of play that I appreciate as a head football coach.

 “I just felt it was the right time for them to have someone else and for me to take on a new challenge.”

He replaces Dave Christensen, who was fired last Sunday after five years with the Cowboys and a sub-.500 record.

Bohl is very familiar with the state of Wyoming and the football program. He was recruited by Wyoming as a player out of Nebraska in 1976 before playing for the Cornhuskers, and his father was stationed at the Air Force base in Cheyenne, 45 miles from Laramie. He also brought his NDSU team to Laramie in 2008 (losing 16-13) and said Sunday he’s spent family vacations in Sheridan, Wyo., in the northwest corner of the state.

But most of all, Bohl said, the decision to take over the Wyoming program came down to the connection he had with UW Athletics Director Tom Burman in the short time they talked during the week.

“He and I had very minimal time to talk as I was focused on North Dakota State,” Bohl said. “But he was able to articulate to me the vision of where our football program needs to go and the resources that are going to be given to allow success. It was amazing, the connection that we had and how we saw things eye-to-eye.”

Burman dealt mainly with Bohl’s representatives during the negotiating process. The UW AD said he was looking for someone with head coaching experience to turn the Cowboys around.

“He’s more of a CEO,” Burman said of Bohl. “Anytime you hire a coordinator who has never been a head coach, it’s a risk. Anytime you hire anyone, it’s a risk. With Coach Bohl, we reduced that risk is the way I looked at it.”

Bohl will be paid a base guaranteed salary of $750,000 the first season with an escalating base salary each year during the five-year contract. Bohl also has additional compensation and incentives that could make the contract worth as much as $1.2 million if everything is reached.

Bohl will continue to coach NDSU through the rest of the FCS playoffs before taking over at Wyoming. He met with his NDSU team Sunday morning prior to flying to Laramie and the team voted for him to continue as coach through the end of the season.

Bohl became emotional talking about NDSU in the news conference, having to stop several times to fight back tears.

“A big reason why I am here is an exceptionally remarkable … group of men that are at North Dakota State,” he said. “I want to say thanks to our players back there and say thanks to (NDSU athletic director) Gene Taylor for hiring a guy who had never been a head coach before and taking a chance on me.”

Bohl inherits a team that went 27-35 the last five years, including two trips to the New Mexico Bowl.

Wyoming hasn’t been consistently competitive within its conference since the mid-to-late 1990s.

Bohl believes he can turn that trend around, like he did with NDSU.

“NDSU was 2-8 the year before I got there,” Bohl said. “That was a tall mountain to climb. But what was true there that’s true here is a rich tradition about Bison football that went back a long way. We just had to rekindle that. You look out there (War Memorial Stadium) and you see those bowl banners, it’s here. We just need to rekindle it.”