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Players ‘estatic’ about new head coach

FARGO — North Dakota State interrupted its regularly scheduled FCS playoff program on Sunday morning to bring its fans a brief announcement: Chris Klieman will be the new head coach when the season is finished.

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The Bison players couldn’t be happier.

“Just ecstatic,” said sophomore punter Ben LeCompte. “There’s a lot of bounce in the guys’ steps … and the current players are excited it’s someone who knows what it takes to be a winner around here.”

The players found out Sunday morning when they all received text messages of a player meeting at the football team room at 9:30 a.m.

“It was a great thing to wake up to,” LeCompte said, “to know there’s a new head coach, stuff is solved and it’s easier to focus on New Hampshire now.”

NDSU hosts New Hampshire Friday night in the FCS semifinals at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. Head coach Craig Bohl will remain until the end of the season and Klieman is still the defensive coordinator.

But he said he also plans on reaching out to the 14 high school players who have given NDSU a verbal commitment. Kindred’s Eric Bachmeier is already on board saying on his Twitter account “great pick for Bison football!”

“We have to make sure we keep the commitments that we have and make sure we keep all the kids here,” Klieman said. “I hope people choose NDSU for NDSU and for the tradition of Bison football, but I understand at least for last week there was lot of uncertainty in a lot of kids’ minds. Hopefully some of that has been put to rest with the fact the culture of Bison football is not going to change.”

Safety Christian Dudzik said Klieman addressed the team briefly on the excitement for the future, but said the focus this week will be on New Hampshire.

“We have to take care of business this week,” Dudzik said.

Senior defensive end Cole Jirik said what impressed him was Klieman turning down an opportunity to go with Craig Bohl to Wyoming as an assistant coach in favor of the NDSU top job.

“It shows he really cares about the players here,” Jirik said. “Everyone from the walk-on to the scholarship kid.”

Said LeCompte: “The fact he turned down an FBS job shows a lot about him. It shows he cares about the players and is taking it on himself to lead us.”

Several other Bison on their Twitter accounts had similar reactions. Athletic director Gene Taylor said a major benefit of hiring from within is the continuity of the program.

“The more you wait, the more questions,” Taylor said. “We wanted to calm a lot of questions out there from potential recruits. It worked out great to do it today.”

Because Klieman was promoted from NDSU’s staff, Taylor did not have to wait a certain period of time to make the hire, which is mandated under the school hiring policy. Taylor said he did not talk to any other potential candidates, although he did say he researched about 20 potential coaches on the Internet.

“Every time I looked at their information and asked are they better or what do they bring to the table different than Chris Klieman, nobody was able to do that,” Taylor said.

Which suited the players just fine.

“I don’t think anyone had any worries,” Dudzik said. “I think we trusted Gene would make an excellent decision.”

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.