As Chris Klieman gestured the "horns" for the NDSU faithful in the FargoDome for the final time, and as the seconds ticked down, he embraced a man he respects — South Dakota State head coach John Stiegelmeier. You had to wonder what was going through the North Dakota State head coach's mind after a big FCS Semifinal win Friday. Once again, the Bison are heading to that popular Dallas suburb and second home for Bison fans — Frisco, Texas. If there isn't a lump in Klieman's throat tonight, leaving the FargoDome, he's not human.
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Klieman was a Missouri Valley "guy" before the idea of today's MVFC was even hatched. He played for Northern Iowa, coached at UNI, Western Illinois, Missouri State and obviously … NDSU. Friday night, he coached what will be his final MVFC game against a conference team that has challenged him the most the past few years, South Dakota State. Tonight, Klieman also coached his final game at a Valley venue, unless of course Kansas State wants to scrap with the Bison in Fargo (probably not a good idea).
It has been a long journey for the 51-year old. He has been coaching in the Green and Gold since this historic title streak began in 2011. He was the DBs coach in year one, the defensive coordinator in year two and year three, and has been the boss ever since. It has been an impressive ascension, and defensive coordinator Matt Entz will be the next guy to steer the massive ship.
PODCAST: NDSU Coach Chris Klieman Talks To HERO Sports' Brian McLaughlin
As good as this program is, it still seems so "family" (seriously, without rolling eyes). The Bison stayed in-house with the coaching decision this week, and apparently the players loved that decision because they played like they did tonight. There was no hiccup. How can you have a coaching change and play arguably your top rival and have no hiccup? Well, apparently that's how this program has been "raised". Oh, absolutists might yell about false start penalties and the such, but truly … this week was as seamless a transition as you could possibly expect anywhere, anytime.
There are no Coups D'Etats in Fargo, North Dakota, it would appear. In other monster college football programs in America, if a coaching change happens, you hear names like Jon Gruden, Chip Kelly, Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll on repeat. "You have to get the big name," they scream. "We have to make a splash". Uggh. It damages chemistry, it is what it is.
Well, NDSU made a splash tonight, in its own Midwestern way. The Bison weren't trying to impress anybody and go Hollywood, they just wanted to move on to the title game — for their outgoing head coach and their incoming head coach. And by the way, Klieman and Entz stood side-by-side tonight — maybe not physically, but in essence. How often does that happen after a coaching transition?
Klieman handled the rumors about Kansas State like a man, not a used car salesman (sorry to all of the used car salesmen out there, we know not all of you are bad). The NDSU coach faced every question head on and answered it.
He didn't …
A) Say "no comment", which is OK but not great or
B) Lie, which really sucks.
Klieman acknowledged something was there, left no doubt. He answered questions as honestly as a guy could. Can we please get more of this and less of the latter?
Maybe that's why his team looked so solid tonight — it respected the guy who won't be here much longer. Three weeks, to be exact.
He's been here for all of the titles (six of them) and he'll be on site for the attempt at the seventh. That's how things apparently work at NDSU, you stick around until the work is finished. You don't get credit for half-ass work.
Klieman coached his final game in the FargoDome tonight. He could have been chasing a spoiled 4-star RB prospect from St. Louis by now, but instead he chose to be in Fargo and made sure Kansas State knew it (and kudos to K-State for agreeing to it — rare).
See you in Frisco, NDSU.
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