Next NDSU coach will likely have Bison ties
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — There is a common denominator among head football coaches at FCS power North Dakota State. They almost always come from inside the program.
That history suggests a small pool of candidates for Bison athletic director Matt Larsen, who said earlier this week he is moving quickly to replace Kansas State-bound Chris Klieman and is looking closely at coaches who have local experience on their resume.
"For somebody who doesn't understand what North Dakota State is about and our fan base in Fargo and North Dakota, I think that's tough," said Larsen, who hopes to name a coach before national signing day on Wednesday. "Is it impossible? No, but I certainly think a little more difficult."
Larsen declined to name possible replacements, but those who fit the provincial bill include current defensive coordinator Matt Entz, current offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham, Wyoming offensive coordinator Brent Vigen and Iowa offensive line coach Tim Polasek. Vigen, a North Dakota native, and Polasek both worked under Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl when Bohl was at North Dakota State.
Five of the last six Bison head coaches have earned national championships. The odd man out in that group, Bob Babich, was the only one who came from outside the program.
Josh Swanson, a North Dakota State alumnus who hosts a game day radio show in Fargo called "Herd it Hear," said fans want someone "who comes from the Bison family tree" and there's a clear favorite among them.
"Matt Entz, hands down," Swanson said. "He's recruited a lot of guys on the roster, he's familiar with all the defensive personnel and he's been here and been a part of every championship since 2014 when Klieman brought him in."
The Bison defense has consistently ranked among the best in the Football Championship Subdivision under Entz. This year's team leads the FCS in red zone defense, allowing opponents inside the 20-yard line only 21 times with six touchdowns and four field goals. The Bison are second in scoring defense and fourth in total defense.
Kris Bakkegard, president of the Team Makers athletic booster club, said he doesn't believe the group has a favorite for Klieman's replacement. Bakkegard said he has faith in Larsen to find the best candidate.
"This is a big decision for him but I trust that he will make a good decision for the football program and for NDSU athletics," Bakkegard said.
Klieman, named Monday night to take over for Bill Snyder at Kansas State, will continue to coach the Bison as they pursue their seventh FCS title in eight years. They face South Dakota State on Friday night in a semifinal in Fargo.
Bison wide receiver Dallas Freeman called Klieman a "player's coach" who deserves the job with the Wildcats.
"I don't know who the next coach is going to be but it's going to be hard to replace Coach Klieman," Freeman said.
Larsen said he told Bison assistants to tell incoming recruits that the school will honor their commitments to join next year's team.
"They chose North Dakota State for a lot of reasons," Larsen said. "Certainly Coach Klieman was one of them. But I'm confident they chose North Dakota State for all the other reasons why we know that this is such a special place."
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