Time to Accept the Facts
Published: Monday, December 9, 2013
Updated: Monday, December 9, 2013 13:12
Gut-wrenching and mind-numbing sums up the feelings of the NDSU football fan base Saturday. After being in the comfortably warm confines of the Fargodome earlier in the day to watch a 38-7 routing of Furman, Bison fans felt like they got dipped into the Red River around 8:30 p.m.
That’s when initial reports began circulating that NDSU head coach Craig Bohl is heading to Wyoming next year. The news was more shocking than a lightning bolt. Almost a year ago, Bohl signed an 8-year contract that ensured some comfort for Bison fans and athletic director Gene Taylor that he wasn’t going anywhere. We all thought NDSU’s leader was here to say.
We were wrong.
Bohl confirmed his decision to take the head-coaching gig for the Cowboys on his weekly TV show at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
Before that, no legitimate confirmation was made by either school. Confusion, panic, anger, grief, sadness, revulsion and cussing all ensued on the internet. You’d have thought it was the 1997 flood all over again.
Bohl leaving town isn’t going to leave Fargo in shambles like the flood, though.
NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said at a press conference Sunday that Bohl will remain on the sidelines to finish the season.
But that still leaves many people sickened that this announcement was made midway through the playoffs. Should we be angry with Bohl? Maybe the anger can be justified because of the contract he signed just last year. But the timing of this decision would never be ideal. If you’re Wyoming, you cannot wait until possibly Jan. 5 to announce you’re new head coach. That puts your recruiting and program into disarray.
“There is no perfect time, but I can tell you the No. 1 goal is the 2013 Bison, for us to take this football team as far as we can go,” Bohl said on his TV show. “There may be all kinds of emotions and I certainly have tons of emotions in my heart, but this is about this collective team.”
I can ensure you that Bohl didn’t anticipate the story being leaked like this either. It’s a shame and disheartening the Bison football players found out the news through social media. But that’s the nature of the beast.
“No one wants to find out the way they found out,” Taylor said. “This group of players will rally around whatever the decision is. They’re hurt and they’re sad, they’re disappointed, they’re frustrated. All those emotions that go along with a change like this, they’re real. But at the end of the day, they know what they need to do and accomplish and how to get there.”
Bohl addressed his team at 9 a.m. Sunday before going on his TV show to confirm his decision. Discomfort was noticeable, but so was grief.
“They’re not easy times,” Bohl said. “NDSU is a very special place in my heart. There has been 11 years that I have invested here. A lot has gone on. That’s kind of the timeline.”
And the question still remains who Bohl will bring with him to Wyoming. Reports say Bohl may take five of his assistants, including offensive coordinator Brent Vigen, defensive coordinator Chris Klieman and recruiting coordinator Kenni Burns.
If that news is true, the knife into the gut of Bison fans has turned into a Samurai sword wrapped in barbed wire. These coaches leaving changes the landscape of NDSU football, from recruiting areas to a possible complete different system.
The system backup quarterback Carson Wentz has been learning for three years may have just gone out the window.
No doubt about it, many of these little things will linger around the program in the coming months. All while Bison fans are trying to wrap their head and make sense of the situation.
Not even Raven Baxter could have foreseen this happening before the game Saturday. Little to no rumors were even circulating during the course of the week.
Acceptance is key now. It would be arrogant for Bison fans to turn their backs on Bohl. He led the transition from DII to the FCS. He turned the Bison back into a national power after just three years of playoff eligibility. His face is more recognizable than the Fargo mayor’s. He orchestrated a program that boosted Fargo into a national scene after beating Kansas State to open this season and ESPN’s “College GameDay” coming to town weeks later.
Don’t let a predictable end of the Bohl-era diminish that.
“I think you have to look at what he’s done for this program and how he’s built this program,” Taylor said. “From the fan base, they’re upset because they care and they like him and they don’t want to see a change. Nobody likes to see change. But, I think what he’s built on this program, he deserves and opportunity to finish that out and have the support of the fan base.”