Tuesday, Apr. 1, 2003
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Bohl headed to N. Dakota St.

Craig Bohl probably could've gone west.

He chose to head north instead.

Bohl, the former Nebraska defensive coordinator, on Friday was named head football coach at North Dakota State.

The 44-year-old Bohl said he was offered the NDSU position on Wednesday, the same day he interviewed for the defensive coordinator's job at Stanford.

"It just wasn't the right fit," he said of the position with the Cardinal.

So, Bohl returns to North Dakota State, where he coached defensive backs in 1984. He'll have a five-year contract with a starting annual base salary of $113,000.

Bohl, fired by Nebraska on Dec. 2, still will be paid by NU through June of 2004. His annual salary at NU was $131,000.

"Yes, I'm back," Bohl said during a Friday press conference in Fargo, N.D. "But this place is far different than when I left."

North Dakota State now plays in the 19,000-seat Fargodome. The Bison, currently competing in NCAADivision II, will play a Division I-AA schedule beginning in 2004.

"I looked at all those things and said this is a no-brainer," said Bohl, who's never been a head coach at any level. "Any time you have a chance to be on the ground floor, it's great to be part of that. We're shooting for bigger fish."

According to the Forum of Fargo, N.D., Bohl was a finalist for the North Dakota State job along with 36-year-old Casey Bradley, who had been the Bison's acting head coach.

Former NDSUhead coach Bob Babich resigned Feb. 4 and accepted a position as linebackers coach with the St. Louis Rams. The Bison finished 2-8 last season after going 7-3 in 2001 and 12-2 in 2000, when they reached the semifinals of the Division IIplayoffs.

North Dakota State athletic director Gene Taylor told the Forum he had considered Iowa State assistant Terry Allen for the head-coaching job. But Allen pulled out of contention Wednesday, apparently opening the door for Bohl.

"I kind of felt like this was something different that I wanted to try," Bohl said.

Although Bohl has never been a head coach, he's built an impressive resume. As a defensive coordinator at Duke in 1994, he helped orchestrate one of the biggest turnarounds in college football, as the Blue Devils finished 8-4 after going 3-8 in 1993.

From 1995-99, Bohl coached linebackers at Nebraska. He took over as defensive coordinator in 2000 following the retirement of Charlie McBride.

In 2001, Nebraska finished among the top 10 nationally in scoring defense, total defense and pass-efficiency defense. Last season, however, the Huskers finished 45th in scoring defense, 55th in total defense and 26th in pass-efficiency defense.

Bohl was one of three Nebraska assistants fired following a 7-6 regular-season finish, the Huskers' worst in 41 years.

McBride said Friday he was "fired up" that Bohl had landed the North Dakota State job.

"Craig's a good football coach, believe me,"McBride said. "I think this is the best thing that could've happened to him. It's kind of like he's getting a new start in coaching.

"This whole thing shows what people around the country think about Craig. They know what a good football coach he is. I know I depended on him a lot when I was there (at Nebraska). I always got a lot of information on what I was going to do from Craig."

Said Nebraska head coach Frank Solich: "It's a great opportunity for Craig. Iwish him and the North Dakota State program well."

Bohl said he will immediately begin forming a staff. He said he plans to interview all of North Dakota State's current assistants. He declined to say which other coaches he will be considering.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

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Press Box Perspective
New Nebraska defensive coordinator Bo Pelini says the Huskers will employ a vastly different alignment in 2003 compared to what the Huskers used in recent seasons under former defensive coordinator Craig Bohl.

But don't look for Pelini to diagram his plans for all to see this spring, or even in August when preseason camp begins.

Nebraska, you see, could benefit from the element of surprise Aug. 30, when the Huskers open the season at home against Oklahoma State.

This is Pelini's first go-round as a defensive coordinator. So it's not as if opponents can go back to films of previous defenses for clues.

"It could be helpful," Pelini said. "I would sure like to know what my opponents are doing."

Nebraska, which also features a new offensive coordinator, faces a formidable task this spring in implementing all the changes. Indeed, one wonders if the magnitude of change could possibly overwhelm players and ultimately become a disadvantage.

"It depends on how guys respond and take coaching," Pelini said. "If they want it badly enough, there's plenty of time to get done what we need to get done."

-- Steven M. Sipple