The Coaching Carousel Comes Around
North Dakota & Minnesota
Fargo & Minneapolis
NDSU & the U of M
They're state neighbors but couldn't be more different.
One's an Agro state that hit it big with oil. The other has four distinct regions to explore and enjoy but no one thing to hang it's hat on.
The North Dakota settlement has everything you need and is constantly in growth but is still well on the side of small. While the Twin Cities area has a population which ranks in the top 10 nationally and features everything which comes along with that.
But where the rubber meets the road on this is at the institutional level. The University of Minnesota is still amongst the highest in enrollment that there is while NDSU is one of many at it's size. Yet one can't help but cripple itself while the other has taken it's opportunities and flourished. Unless you're delusional, NDSU has made the right moves while Minnesota has continued to cause itself problems. The latest example of that is the coaching for the football teams.
NDSU is on their third coach this millennium, with only two being hired since the calendar change. The U of M will match that number in the next few days after the debacle that has been the Jerry Kill into Tracy Claeys into ?. Blame for the way things went with Kill can't be put on the university, his health issues just became too serious. The way things closed out with his successor are another matter entirely. The athletic director is charged with leading the whole department so firing Claeys is well within his job description but after having one of the best seasons the team has had and finishing it off with a win it's a strange decision. The way things went with the "boycott" are certainly a tentacle of the decision but as has been asked, why wait then?
I know all the talking heads have already been saying that there must be someone in the wings that is a perceived upgrade to what they already had. If it works out that way then good for them. But the national perspective on it can only go lower then it already was from this.
Growing up in this area I've always sensed some tension between the fanbases of NDSU and the U. In a way it's a silly tension because they so rarely compete either on the field or for recruits. NDSU's always been sort of the little brother in the shadows. Being in Fargo, being in smaller conferences, having Twin Cities sports talk piped in as one of the only sources for years. Well I think starting to flip.
Yeah NDSU has all the championships in it's back pocket but I don't think that even needs to be the basis of my argument.
Just look at the stability and smarts that are used in the decision by the school. Three coaches in three years VS. three in 17 years. Want to expand it out, NDSU has reached a point of annually competing for a spot in the NCAA Mens basketball tournament while MN is not far removed from one of the worst basketball seasons ever. They've improved his year, which is good for them but the fact still remains.
NDSU has a wrestling program in the Big 12 while Minnesota just fired their long time coach.
Not the same school but in state partner North Dakota is coming of a national title in College Hockey. Even just the fact that both schools now have dedicated, local sports talk radio. The one hour mixed bag from 12 to one is pretty paltry yet better nothing. While NDSU has the new kid on the block. Think what you may about the quality of their daily programming but four hours + of coverage on the Bison is certainly an upgrade.
The little brothers are getting up on "big" Minnesota. And it all comes down to who's running the show. Unfortunately for all the boosters and backers, the U of M has had just as long of a history of issues finding people who can handle the leadership role without incident. So when there's chaos at the top, it's surely going to trickle down. When there's stability, that it what will filter into the rest.
So the Coaching Carousel has come to the Cities. Maybe they can get it right this time, but history would indicate that whether it be now or 2, 3 or 5 years down the road things will get wonky again down there. I mean this sincerely, it's a tough break because no fanbases deserve to get the short end of it as often as they have!
Update: News is breaking that the Gophers have hired PJ Fleck from Western Michigan. He was the hottest name on the market and did some good things in Kalamazoo. Whether that translates to the Twin Cities is a big time question mark.
On the flip side, some times good coaches go from a good program to another "more high profile" program yet fall flat. Think Charlie Strong going from Louisville to Texas. Louisville continued to work at a high level while Texas continued to be putrid and he got fired after two years.
The major difference is that Fleck will likely get much more support by the universities backers then Strong ever reportedly did. From the pinhole perspective, it seems like they made the right hire but years from now is when that answer will be clear.
If it does work out well for them, they need to emulate Wyoming and put a huge buyout on him with any extensions.