FARGO, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota State didn't waste time or miles looking for its next football coach, announcing Sunday it would turn the powerful Football Championship Subdivision program over to defensive coordinator Chris Klieman.
Klieman, 47, is taking over for Craig Bohl after the most successful coach in the school's proud football history left for Wyoming after the Bison finish their quest for a third straight FCS title. Klieman acknowledged the difficulty of following Bohl, but said the "culture of Bison football will not change" and the team will continue to reload, not rebuild.
"I'm not going to be Craig Bohl. I'm going to be Chris Klieman. And I think that's good. I think that's OK," Klieman said. "I've learned so much from Craig. Craig is the best leader I've ever been around as far as just a genuine leader. He tells you exactly how it is.
"The one thing I've learned is, shoot straight with people and people can deal with the consequences," he said.
Klieman is completing his third season as an assistant coach with the Bison, the last two as defensive coordinator. NDSU's defense has been rated at the top of FCS statistics in the last couple of years and is allowing 11 points per game this season. The Bison have posted three shutouts in 2013.
Bohl, who has won 102 games in 11 seasons, asked Klieman to go with him to Wyoming.
"I had an opportunity. I just had to weigh those things," Klieman said. "It was just time for me, at age 47, if I want to lead my own program. It's hard to find head coaching jobs and I think this is one of the top FCS jobs in the country."
The announcement by Gene Taylor, the NDSU athletic director, came one week after Bohl was introduced as Wyoming's next coach. Taylor, who did not advertise the job, said he wanted to name a coach quickly to limit the uncertainty for recruits and assistant coaches.
"The sooner the better, and it worked out great that we could do it today," Taylor said.
Taylor said he talked with Klieman for three hours Saturday night following NDSU's 48-14 win over Coastal Carolina in an FCS quarterfinal game at the Fargodome.
"At the beginning of the conversation I felt really good about it, at the end of the conversation I felt even better about him being our next head football coach," Taylor said. "I just wanted to make sure he knew what he was getting into and felt comfortable stepping into those shoes."
Bison defensive back Christian Dudzik, who had two interceptions in the win over Coastal Carolina, said Sunday that the players wanted Taylor to stay in-house with the selection. Klieman, Dudzik said, has a "calm, cool and collected" demeanor that plays well with the athletes.
"We're comfortable with him and we know he's an excellent coach," Dudzik said. "Just the uncertainty with an outside guy, I guess I can't really say, but I think guys are happy with coach Klieman."
Klieman previously served as an assistant coach for nine years at Northern Iowa, his alma mater. He does have one year as a head coach on his resume. He coached Division III member Loras College to a 3-7 record in 2005.
The Waterloo, Iowa, native played defensive back at Northern Iowa. He was a three-time all-Gateway Conference performer for the Panthers. He graduated in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in health education. He earned a master's degree in physical education from Northern Iowa in 1992.
Klieman said one of his first priorities will be connecting with recruits who have said they want to play for the Bison. He's confident most of them will honor their verbal commitments.
"I need to get on the phones with those kids. Until I knew what was going on, until everybody did, I think there was some uncertainly there," Klieman said. "I hope that a number of those kids chose NDSU for NDSU and for the academics they are going to receive here and for Bison football and the tradition at North Dakota State.
The Bison face New Hampshire Friday night in a semifinal game at the Fargodome.