Here is the daily Bison Media Blog Football Coach Watch List, an unofficial top 10 ranking of the favorites culled from gut feeling, sources, rumors, experience or no valid reason whatsoever to take the head football coaching position at NDSU:
1. Chris Klieman, NDSU defensive coordinator, maybe needs to be convinced not to go to Wyoming.
2. Scottie Hazelton, Nevada defensive coordinator. Former NDSU defensive coordinator and architect of first national title from the defensive side. USC experience helps.
3. Pat Perles, offensive line coach, Syracuse. Former Bison offensive coordinator who went to the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs before that staff was fired.
4. Todd Wash, defensive line coach, Jacksonville Jaguars. We get that NFL guys don’t come back because of the NFL money, but here’s the question for the former Bison assistant and player: If you ever want to be a head coach, now is the time because it’s not going to happen in the NFL.
5. Jimmy Burrow, defensive coordinator, Ohio University. Former Bison assistant who has been a career assistant.
6. Tim Beck, offensive coordinator, Nebraska. Writing is on the wall with the Pelini era, best to get moving now.
7. Brian Ward, defensive coordinator, Western Illinois. This guy just has CEO leadership written all over him.
8. Rob Ambrose, head coach, Towson. He’s brought that program to FCS success.
9. Glenn Caruso, head coach, University of St. Thomas. Great recruiter who knows how to run a program, no matter what level.
10. Brent Pease. A Montana guy, former NFL quarterback who was recently fired as Florida’s offensive coordinator.
Craig Bohl is in Laramie this afternoon and about to accept the head coaching job for the Wyoming Cowboys. It’s an FBS school, but it is also one that will pay him somewhere around $1.5 million $1.2 million to $1.3 million with a base of $750,000 plus perks that us curmudgeons could only dream about. That according to folks close to the program in Laramie.
Considering his base was $210 here with a total package last year around $350,000, it’s a no brainer. That’s a lot of cash. If the New York Times came to me and said we’ll pay you five times what you are making, I’m out of here. Athletic director Gene Taylor said Bohl will remain as the Bison coach until the season is over, which seems to have its share of focus questions associated to it but that’s another story.
The one unanswered question, of course, is who will be the next coach? It seems assistants Brent Vigen and Chris Klieman would logically fit in the mix. It’s been written on coaching websites that Bohl is taking both of them with him to Wyoming, something that I confirmed this afternoon with another source.
But if you’re one or the other, wouldn’t you want to be the next head coach at NDSU? The base of an assistant at Wyoming is more, say around $275,000, but the bonuses with the Bison position easily top $300,000 if you throw in the 2 percent gate bonus, media appearances and country club membership. That’s not including success bonuses. You can make about the same at either town – some would argue living in Fargo is a better situation than living in Laramie – plus it’s been awhile since Wyoming has had a proven winner. The last two head coaches have been fired.
Plus, and here’s the point of this blog: is it all about money? If ever Klieman or Vigen wanted to be a head coach, this would be the perfect opportunity. NDSU will return a strong team next year, the recruiting class this year looks solid if they all remain true to their word and it’s a program where there have been only three losing seasons since the mid-1960s.
Wyoming is coming off a 5-7 season and has struggled in the Mountain West in recent years; NDSU faced them in 2008, a game the Bison nearly won. The amount of money we’re hearing is more than 1.2 million, that was what Dave Christensen was getting paid, and Vorel’s article makes us believe it’s more than that. For the record, haven’t heard any confirmation on NDSU’s part; left messages with Gene Taylor and Bohl himself. We have confirmed there is a team meeting at 9am Sunday, that is unusual for the Bison, not something normally planned. NDSU’s Broadcasting Twitter feed says that Craig Bohl Coaches Show will go on at 10:30 am tomorrow. Per Bohl’s contract, the buyout to leave for a FBS job is 100,000 dollars; which I assume Wyoming would swallow up.
Biggest question now is who goes with Bohl? I firmly believe Brent Vigen will go with Bohl, not sure about Chris Klieman, but obviously this comes at a time when NDSU is prepping for an FCS Quarterfinal game against Coastal Carolina that will now be played Saturday at 11 am on ESPN, many at NDSU and even commissioner of the Missouri Valley, Patty Viverito nearly guaranteed a Friday night game on ESPN 2, instead that went to Towson-Eastern Illinois. The response from the players to this news seemed stunned and shock; from Brock Jensen:
Really happy for Coach, love that man with all my heart… Sad it had to get leaked like this, doubt he wanted it to happen like it is.
Never say never in college realignment. If there’s one constant that I have learned since I started covering NDSU in 2006 is that expect the unexpected when it comes to schools and conferences and that’s what we got on Thursday when the Summit League announced that Oral Roberts was re-joining the conference in July, not even two years after they left the league. Instantly this move stabilizes a league that in my mind had been on life support and now opens the door for a real interesting opportunity. More on that in a second.
NDSU and Oral Roberts will resume their rivalry in 2014.
Why did ORU come back? Easy answer is that the new home for the Golden Eagles, the Southland Conference is trying to become the premier league in FCS Football, the commissioner of the league, Tom Burnett told me so last January in Frisco and again before this season started on my radio show in August. Just this year they added four schools; Abilene Christian, Incarnate Word, New Orleans and Houston Baptist, three of these schools will play FCS Football in 2014, only UNO will not and they are contemplating returning football, HBU is starting a program from scratch just to join the league. In 2014, the Southland will have 11 football playing members, making it the 2nd biggest conference in FCS behind the Big Sky’s 13. Those facts made it pretty straightforward to ORU that the Southland is a football league and no matter what the geographic footprint of the Southland; it wasn’t going to fit ORU’s profile since they don’t have football.
How does this help the Summit? This is pretty easy, besides giving the league a 9th full-time member, it also provides instant credibility and the for the schools it’s a familiarity theme that already exists. Outside of Denver and Omaha, the remaining 6 schools all know about what ORU brings and the credibility the Eagles have. Three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament from 2006-2008, and great matchups with the new kids on the block, NDSU and SDSU. The Jacks had the big upset of ORU at the Summit Tournament in 2009, then Western Illinois knocked them off in 2012. Also think of it from a purely men’s basketball sense and now you’ve got 4 schools with pretty good RPIs (NDSU, SDSU, Denver and ORU) and for fans screaming and hoping that the Summit League receiver higher than a 14 seed at the NCAA Tournament this will certainly help.
Any downside? On the outside I’m sure the coaching staffs at NDSU and SDSU specifically are happy that ORU is back but deep down they have to be a little disappointed. The path to the NCAA Tournament in men’s basketball and baseball for a long time went thru ORU, then when Oakland left it got a lot easier for the Bison and Jacks. SDSU was the first team not named Oral Roberts that went to the NCAA baseball tournament in 16 years last spring. Those opportunities suddenly got a lot tougher in 2014-15.
Is the Summit done adding schools? The league will now stand at 9 teams come this July (NDSU, SDSU, USD, IPFW, IUPUI, Western Illinois, Denver, Omaha and Oral Roberts) and just for a travel sense you’d like to have an even number to make it easier for scheduling. So who would the league look at? This will drive some that ready the blog crazy, but it seems logical that the Summit talks to UND. I have no evidence that UND is looking to leave the Big Sky, but geographically it’s starting to make more and more sense to me. Denver, Tulsa, Vermillion, Brookings, Fargo and Omaha all in the center of the country and while the trips to Macomb, Indianapolis and Fort Wayne aren’t easy, it’s certainly more do-able than Portland, Flagstaff, Sacramento and Pocatello from Grand Forks. Obviously the biggest stumbling block is a home for football, and I don’t have a solution to that problem yet, because I don’t believe the Missouri Valley is ready to go to 11 teams, but I believe it’s an option that may be explored and soon.
All in all it’s a good move for the Summit League and convinces me this is NDSU’s home for a while longer.
The three finalists for the Walter Payton Award were announced Tuesday and to no surprise Jimmy Garoppolo and Vernon Adams were two of the finalists, Towson running back Terrance West was selected as a third but we found out how close NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen was to be selected as a finalist. It should be noted that the last nine years a quarterback has won this award.
VERNON ADAMS – EASTERN WASHINGTON
Vernon Adams, Eastern Washington
The numbers for EWU’s signal caller are gaudy, 4,059 passing yards and 46 touchdowns, a new Big Sky conference record. Adams ran for nearly 500 yards and added four scores, and led the FCS in total offensive yards per game. Adams is another in a long list of great EWU quarterbacks, just two years ago Bo Levi Mitchell won the award, Adams came in last year against Sam Houston in the FCS semis and nearly led a miracle comeback, he has a large spotlight on him starting Saturday against SDSU.
JIMMY GAROPPOLO – EASTERN ILLINOIS
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
Garoppolo has been on my radar since early last season and he’s done even more in 2013. EIU’s signal caller started off the season with a bang as his team beat San Diego State, he followed that up with 6 TDs against Illinois State and still unbeaten Northern Illinois. He’s thrown for nearly 4500 yards in 12 games, and will win this award, joining Tony Romo, another EIU grad to win the Payton back in 2002. His NFL stock will rise or fall with this year’s playoffs, his team is on trial starting Saturday, EIU was blasted by South Dakota State in the 1st round last year, its trial begins against a conference foe in Tennessee State, it would be good for the FCS for Garoppolo and his team to make some noise.
BROCK JENSEN – NDSU
Brock Jensen, NDSU
Much has been made about Jensen’s numbers heading into 2013, but the four year starter is going to leave Fargo as the school’s most prolific passer and perhaps its most decorated winner. His game from 2012 to now is an absolute 180, Jensen was timid in the playoffs last year, being asked to not lose a game after a string of pick 6′s. Now he’s become a true quarterback with an aerial attack to boot, his combination with Zach Vraa has led Vraa to set a new school record in touchdown receptions, while Jensen has set the school record for touchdown throws. He’s still as dangerous as ever with his feet, this stat is tremendous, he leads NDSU with 12 rushing first downs in third down situations. His status as a winner will never be questioned thanks to his 44 wins, now the all-time leader in FCS history and his legacy was cemented going 7 of 7 on the final drive at K-State. People will say that Jensen is a system quarterback, but whatever that system is plenty of teams should want it; Jensen may not get the chatter of being in the elite quarterbacks in FCS, but his numbers say otherwise.