Yesterday as I was looking around the internet at speculation about what today’s FCS Football rankings might look like after 6 of the top 10 ranked teams lost I came across this article about programs suffering through disappointing seasons that mentioned Wyoming’s Craig Bohl. And it got me thinking about some of the past NDSU Bison coaches and the success (or lack thereof) they had at other programs, and how much of NDSU’s success is simply the culture here, the tradition of winning if you will.

Bison helmets

Since 1965 NDSU has won 12 National titles at Division II and Division I (FCS) levels and 28 conference titles. Since its inception in 1894, NDSU football has 671 wins, good for 37th all time and a winning percentage of .642.  Since the rise of NDSU Dominance in 1963 under Darrell Mudra the team has gone 476-134-4 for a winning percentage of .775.

But outside of NDSU, those head coaches have seen little success. Let’s just take a quick look at what some of these coaches have gone on to do.

  1. Darrell Mudra – 1963 to 1965 was one of the successes. Coming from Adams State he was quite successful and continued that success past NDSU to finish with a career 200 wins, a pair of National Championships (NDSU in 1965 and Eastern Illinois in 1978) and induction into the NCAA Hall of Fame.
    Adams State                1959-1962   32-4-1
    NDSU                            1963-1965   24-6-0
    Arizona                         1967-1968   11-9-1
    Western Illinois            1969-1973   39-13-0
    Florida State                1974-1975     4-18-0
    Eastern Illinois             1978-1982   47-15-1
    Northern Iowa              1983-1987   43-16-1
  2. Ron Erhardt is a ND legend. Born and raised in ND he coached dominate high school teams then moved up to be an assistant at NDSU before taking over in 1966, where his success (2 National Championships) led him to a long career in the NFL (mostly as an Offensive Coordinator, retiring in 1997).
    St. Mary’s of New England  1957-1959   25-3-1
    Bishop Ryan                          1960-1962  20-6-1
    NDSU                                      1966-1972  61-7-1
    New England Patriots          1978-1981  21-28-0
  3. Ev Kjelbertson was a two sport coach at NDSU, coaching baseball for a couple of seasons in the ’60’s. He was an assistant football coach and then took over in ’73 from Erhardt, won a couple of conference titles and then was forced out before the end of his third season, winning only two games that year. I can’t find any more information on his coaching career after that.
    NDSU                 1973-1975   17-13-0
  4. Jim Wacker had a long and distinguished career in the college football coaching ranks, winning a couple of NAIA Division II National Championships with Texas Lutheran before coming to NDSU, and a couple of NCAA Division II National Championships with Southwest Texas State after leaving NDSU. But he could never duplicate the success he had at the smaller schools once he moved up to the bigger schools.
    Texas Lutheran                   1971-1975   37-17-0
    NDSU                                   1976-1978   24-9-1
    Southwest Texas State     1979-1982   42-8-0
    Texas Christian                  1983-1991   40-58-2
    Minnesota                          1992-1996   16-39-0
  5. Don Morton had great success at NDSU, taking the team to 3 Division II championship games in 4 years, winning once. After his coaching career he returned to NDSU as an Assistant to the President (I think it was mostly fundraising) and is now with Microsoft.
    NDSU              1979-1984       57-15-0
    Tulsa                1985-1986       13-9-0
    Wisconsin       1987-1989         6-27-0
  6. Earl Solomonson was head coach here for two years, won 2 NCAA Division II national Championships, went to Montana State and crashed and burned.
    NDSU                             1985-1986   24-2-1
    Montana State             1987-1991  15-40-0
  7. Rocky Hager is another homegrown boy, growing up in Harvey and graduating from Minot State before coming to NDSU. He had a .778 winning percentage at NDSU, having won 2 NCAA Division II National Championships when he was fired. How often do you see a coach win over 3/4 of their games and get fired? He was the final coach at Northeastern when they dropped their football program in 2009.
    NDSU                               1987-1996  91-25-1
    Northeastern                   2004-2009  20-47-0
  8. Bob Babich has been coaching in the NFL since he left NDSU, but he’s generally considered the worst coach on this list by virtue of his teams never winning either a National Championship nor a conference championship. That’s right, he can’t even step foot in the Championship room here because he never won single one despite a .647 winning percentage. He was an assistant at several colleges before getting his only head coaching job here.
    NDSU                          1997-2002       46-22-0
  9. Craig Bohl is the most successful Head Coach so far in the program and the only one to amass 100+ wins at the school. He oversaw the transition of NDSU from Division II to Division I (FCS) and won 3 consecutive Division I (FCS) National Championships.
    NDSU                            2003-2013     104-32-0
    Wyoming                     2014-present      5-17-0
  10. Chris Klieman was a defensive coordinator at NDSU before being named head coach, bringing back the tradition of hiring from within the program. So far it’s been a success, winning a National Championship last year and positioned well for the post season this year despite losing his starting (and NFL scouted) QB. He spent several years as an assistant at various schools, and had a brief stint as head coach at Division III Loras.
    Loras                        2005                      3-7-0
    NDSU                       2014-2015          21-3-0

In all, that’s a lot of wins and a lot of championships. In fact, during the time frame 1965 to 2015 that’s more recognized National Championship than Alabama, Notre Dame, Miama, Texas, Oklahoma or Nebraska.

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