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TOM MILLER: An unique press conference

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Grand Forks Herald
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Bubba Schweigert's first victory as head coach at North Dakota came at the podium in a packed room on the suite level of the Alerus Center on Friday morning.

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UND athletics has never had a press conference like this one, the first opportunity for North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison to announce Schweigert as head football coach.

We've never seen a press conference produce that many laughs or that many tears.

Most impressively, though, no one has won over a room of media members, athletic department staff and alumni as fast as Schweigert.

During a nearly 30-minute speech, Schweigert displayed a real genuine emotion.

He came across refreshingly unpolished in a profession that can produce personalities that border on politician and used-car salesman. It sure seems that what you see is what you get with Bubba.

Only one day into the Grand Forks spotlight, and he already goes by just one name to UND staff and supporters: Bubba.

It all felt unique Friday morning. Really, how many Division I head coaches bring their high school football coach to a press conference?

Yet, former Zeeland, N.D., football coach Leo Opdahl was in attendance, one of the many statewide supporters Schweigert has collected over the years.

"This is just going to be a fantastic fit," Opdahl said. "No one will be more passionate than him. He was passionate in grade school and high school and when he led our team to a state championship in 1978."

Opdahl has seen Schweigert in his formative years. To him, the coach on display to the community on Friday was the same guy he's known for years.

"He was always motivated to do the best he could," Opdahl said. "He wasn't the fastest guy but no one outworked him. He and his brothers are the kind of people that do something 100 percent."

Schweigert was just as complimentary of Opdahl.

"You guys are going to see a pretty good show out on that turf if I can motivate guys like he motivated a bunch of boys in Zeeland, N.D.," Schweigert said. "We would run through the wall for him."

In the big picture, there are still loads of questions left to answer.

Was this the right hire? Will Bubba be able to restore the program to acceptable heights?

Of course, those aren't questions you answer one day in December. All he could do Friday was say all the right things, and he did.

He stressed recruiting the Midwest, specifically North Dakota and Minnesota. It seems like an obvious approach, although UND has struggled lately to recruit the area and missed on a number of players from outside the footprint.

Bubba then talked about the type of student-athlete and assistant coaches he wants to go after. His words targeted the alumni as he spoke about restoring pride for the product on the field.

Then Bubba rattled off a laundry list of motivational phrases and personal mottos that hinted at the type of strong character coach UND has landed. Every saying had a punch line and a quirky tale.

It's already clear: If Bubba can coach as well as he can tell a story, North Dakota football will return relevancy in no time.

Miller reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1121; (800) 477-6572, ext. 121; or send e-mail to tmiller@gfherald.com.

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