The STATS.com FCS Coach of the Year award came out this week and it should be no surprise to the winner: Portland State head coach Bruce Barnum. He started the year as the interim head coach and by the middle of the season was awarded a five-year contract after winning two FBS games and putting his team in the hunt for the Big Sky Conference title. He got my vote.
The Vikings were 3-9 last year, which turned into a 9-2 regular season this year that included wins over Washington State (the best FBS win by any FCS team this season) and North Texas, a 66-7 bombing that led to the firing of the UNT head coach. The Vikings were ousted, however, by Northern Iowa in last weekend’s FCS second round in Portland.
In all, there were 15 head coaches that received at least a fifth-place vote and this is where you can take exception to Chris Klieman not being in that mix of coaches. You can make a case that this season was a better coaching job than last year based on the number of players the Bison lost in the last two graduating classes, a few of which are playing pro ball, and the number of young players seeing the field this year. He also lost his NFL prospect at quarterback halfway through the year and the Bison responded by winning six straight under a freshman quarterback. “Our coaches continued to preach the same things,” Klieman said, “and not trying to reinvent the wheel.”
NDSU starts just five seniors on offense and three on defense with 24 freshmen or sophomores on the two-deep chart heading into the UNI quarterfinal round game on Saturday. Developing that kind of young depth, and not panicking particularly after the loss to South Dakota, is a pretty good coaching job.