There were two points this season when I strongly believed Craig Bohl would not be coaching the North Dakota State football team next year. The first came after the Bison went to Manhattan, Kan., and defeated defending Big 12 champion Kansas State to open the season. The second came after University of Minnesota coach Jerry Kill suffered another epilectic seizure on the sidelines in early September.
I believed the victory over Kansas State was of a different magnitude than NDSU's previous triumphs over the likes of Minnesota and Kansas. The Wildcats were an inexperienced bunch, but Kansas State is a perennial top 25 program and coach Bill Snyder is one of the best in the game. For all the games Bohl has won at NDSU, this one was particularly special.
In the Gophers' case, not only did I believe Kill's epilepsy would affect his long-term future, but also that Minnesota hadn't progressed very much under Kill. This was a program, it appeared, still anchored near the bottom of the Big Ten. Bohl's stock was at its zenith and I thought surely a program attractive enough to Bohl's discerning eye would come calling.
What might fit Bohl's eye? A program in the Midwest, with a chance to win, at which the president and athletic director are fully behind a winning football program.
Some might be thinking, "Who does Bohl think he is being picky and choosy?" The coach has said many times he has no desire to take just any FBS job, since he was the defensive coordinator at Nebraska and coached in Orange Bowls, Fiesta Bowls and national championship games. Also, as Bison athletic director Gene Taylor told CBSSports.com, "Where he is financially, it would take a special job." Taylor has told me Bohl has a very small list of FBS schools for which he would leave NDSU.
Alas, as the calendar has turned to December, regular seasons have concluded and the Bison look forward to their first playoff game of 2013 on Saturday, I no longer believe Bohl will be leaving Fargo. What seemed inevitable a couple of months ago now would be a surprise. Anything can happen, of course, but it looks now like Bohl will be at NDSU at least one more season ... and, at 55, every year he stays at NDSU there is a greater chance he will never leave NDSU.
What happened? Easy. The teams that most closely fit Bohl's profile won more, saving their coaches' jobs.
Here's a look at programs that, at various points this season, might've been a destination for Bohl. And what happened so that is no longer the case:
The spot at which I thought Bohl had the best chance of landing. The Gophers had a head coach who couldn't stay on the sideline because of his health and were crushed by Iowa and Michigan in their first two Big Ten games. It looked like same-old, same-old in terms of on-field performance. But Minnesota found a winning combination with Kill in the booth and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys on the sideline. The Gophers won four straight conference games, including their first win over Nebraska in more than 50 years, and any talk of Kill leaving Minnesota went away.
There was some chatter early on that Iowa might be the perfect place for Bohl. But Kirk Ferentz's team finished 8-4, including three wins in its last four games. Also: To buy out Ferentz's contract after this season, Iowa would have to write a check for $21 million. That ain't happening.
Bohl's college team and the place where he was defensive coordinator under legendary coach Tom Osborne struggled (for Cornhusker standards) under hot-headed coach Bo Pelini. Good Lord, the Huskers lost to Minnesota. Pelini's job status was the storyline of the season in Lincoln and Omaha. Some close followers of Nebraska were speculating Bohl would be in the mix to replace Pelini. In the end, the Huskers finished an albeit ugly regular season 8-4 and Saturday athletic director Shawn Eichorst said Pelini will continue "to lead our program into the future."
I'm not sure if this one fits the bill as a place where Bohl could win. The Cyclones play in the Big 12 and face all the challenges that implies. But Iowa State could be a place where getting to a middling bowl game on a regular basis is a realistic goal. It's moot anyway, as Paul Rhoads will return next season despite goiing 3-9 overall and 2-7 in the conference. Rhoads, however, did shake up his staff this week by firing his offensive coordinator and running backs coach.
Again, not sure this is a place that has a realistic chance of winning. KU is a basketball school. The football program hasn't been to a bowl since 2008 and is 14-46 in the past five seasons. And, anyway, Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger said Charlie Weis will return to Lawrence in 2014.
Another perennially bad program, but it is a Midwest school and would be a better Big Ten job than, say, Indiana. Coach Tim Beckman is 6-18 and has won only one conference game in his two years. Illinois AD Mike Thomas said today Beckman will be back next year, based mostly on improved off-the-field performance of the football players.
This job is actually open. Wyoming fired Dave Christensen this week, just two years into a five-year extension he signed in early 2012. The Cowboys compete in the Mountain West with the likes of Boise State, Fresno State, Colorado State and Nevada-Las Vegas. I've never seen Wyoming as a place Bohl would go. As referenced earlier, he's said often he's coached in big bowl games and national championship games while he was at Nebraska and doesn't need to take an FBS job just for the sake of taking an FBS job. Christensen's total compensation package at Wyoming was $1.2 million per year, but his base salary was only $190,000. I just don't see Bohl going from Fargo to Laramie.
(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)