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There is no reason for Bison fans to be mad at Craig Bohl

by Mike McFeely

There is no reason to be mad at Craig Bohl.

Judging by some tweets and Facebook posts and text messages, many North Dakota State football fans are exactly that.

Mad. Angry. Livid. Pissed.

Like jilted lovers, Bison fans are upset the longtime head coach is leaving them for Wyoming. And they seem to be really miffed he is leaving in the middle of the Bison's quest for a third straight Football Championship Subdivison national title.

 Craig Bohl

"Team, family, loyalty, respect.  All of these words have lost meaning if coach Bohl is leaving NOW," one upset fan wrote on Twitter Saturday.

"What a piece of work to leave in the middle of the playoffs. I hope Bohl fails miserably at Wyoming," commented another fan on my blog.


It makes no sense.

Bohl stayed in Fargo for 11 years. He is the most successful coach in Bison history. He won two straight national championships and the team he assembled might win a third. He helped give NDSU the most national publicity it could ever hope to have. He beat Minnesota (twice), Kansas State and other FBS schools. Bohl's success helped attract ESPN College GameDay to Fargo ... Fargo! He transformed NDSU football from a nice Division II program that drew 10,000 fans a game into a Division I juggernaut that packs the 19,000-seat Fargodome with electricity.

Bohl transformed Bison football from a program that was manhandled by Augustana at home in 2002 under Bob Babich, into a community-wide party that attracts more people for tailgating than Babich used to draw to the games. 

Hell, you could make the argument more Bison fans migrated to Frisco, Texas, last year for the national championship game than 

attended home games during the waning years of Babich.

And you're mad at Bohl?

How about a "thanks for the memories?"

The timing is awkward, no doubt. Bohl is leaving in the midst of the playoffs and the news of his leaving broke not long after NDSU beat Furman 38-7 at the Fargodome on Saturday afternoon. But, if Bohl was going to take another job, the timing was not going to be good. Other schools could not wait until January to make a hire because of recruiting, hiring of staff and a million other details that need to be taken care of.

Then there is the money. Bohl made about $350,000 a year at NDSU, plus many of the other usual perks (use of a car, country club membership). Word out of Wyoming is Bohl's new contract will pay him in the neighborhood of $1.5 million per year and there was some speculation on social media he'd negotiated use of a private jet and a large increase in assistant coaches' salaries over what his predecessor, Dave Christensen, was able to pay his staff.

From a timing standpoint, there wasn't much choice. From a money standpoint, it's a no-brainer.

Some NDSU fans also seem shocked Bohl left NDSU for Wyoming. Minnesota, they could understand. Nebraska, they'd give him a hero's sendoff. But Wyoming? Really?

Again, it makes sense from a financial angle. And maybe this angle, too: If Bohl does want to get a BCS conference head coaching job before he retires (Nebraska?), perhaps he felt he needed to move to a lesser FBS conference as a stepping stone.

And there is the very unsubstantiated rumor wyoming might make the move to the Big 12. Repeat, very unsubstantiated.

Bison fans need to realize Bohl took what views as a better job. A higher level. Substantially more money. More and better opportunities in the future. If this was any other profession, people would be congratulating Bohl for improving his lot in life.

But since it is football, and since Bison fans have become so emotionally invested in this program the last few years, most people deluded themselves into thinking Bohl would stay forever just because he liked it here.

Coaching a college football team is a job, folks. It is a business like any other business. People chase their dreams, and money.

There is no reason to be mad at Craig Bohl for that. 

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)