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McFeely: Bison coach Entz mentioned as possibility to replace Scott Frost at Nebraska

Second time ESPN reporter has listed NDSU coach as having possibility to move up; former Bison coach Klieman also among possibilities

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North Dakota State head coach Matt Entz lifts the trophy after the 38-10 win over Montana State in the FCS title game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022 with linebacker Jasir Cox close by. David Samson / The Forum
David Samson/The Forum
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FARGO — One thing is sure: ESPN reporter Pete Thamel and /or his sources like Matt Entz.

The North Dakota State head coach was listed among possibilities to replace the fired Scott Frost at Nebraska. It's the second time in a month Thamel mentioned Entz as a potential climber in the college coaching ranks.

In August, Thamel listed Entz 10th on a list of up-and-coming coaches .

Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts fired Frost on Sunday, one day after the Cornhuskers lost 45-42 in Lincoln to Georgia Southern of the Group of Five Sun Belt Conference. A 38-17 win over FCS North Dakota is Nebraska's only victory this season and the Huskers didn't look good attaining it.

A jump from NDSU to Nebraska seems a huge leap, even given the Bison's historic success in FCS. It's not unprecedented, as Bison fans know. Former NDSU coach Chris Klieman went from Fargo to Kansas State of the Big 12 in 2019, but there was an asterisk. Ex-Bison athletic director Gene Taylor, who hired Klieman at NDSU, was the athletic director at Kansas State. It was almost a family affair.

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Klieman, by the way, also made Thamel's list Frost's possible replacements. That seems much more likely, as I tweeted a couple of months. Klieman has experience as a head coach in FBS and Kansas State is a solid Big 12 program, even if it is not one of the top dogs.

Other names on Thamel's list: Iowa State's Matt Campbell, Kentucky's Mark Stoops, Baylor's Dave Aranda, Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, Kansas' Lance Leipold, Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonard, Minnesota's PJ Fleck, North Carolina State's Dave Doeren, Arkansas' Sam Pittman, USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, Illinois' Bret Bielema, Coastal Carolina's Jamey Chadwell and Air Force's Troy Calhoun.

Entz would appear to be lacking in resume compared to those coaches. He was at FCS Northern Iowa before coming to Fargo to be Klieman's defensive coordinator in 2014. Prior to that he made assistant stops at Division II Wayne State and Winona State. His first college coaching job was defensive coordinator at Division II Illinois College.

Being the head coach at NDSU is going to draw attention. In his fourth year as head coach, Entz is 39-4 overall, including 20-3 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Considering his 2020 team with Trey Lance at quarterback and Dillon Radunz at left tackle was cancelled because of COVID and the Bison struggled through a needless FCS spring season in 2021 with a pockmarked roster, his record had potential to be more like 44-1 or 43-2 at this point.

One thing lacking on Entz's resume is a win over an FBS opponent, but the Bison will get a chance this week. NDSU plays at Arizona of the Pac-12 on Saturday night. The Bison had a game against Oregon cancelled in 2020 because of COVID, a game that because of NDSU's talent had a chance to be interesting.

No matter what happens with the Nebraska opening, Entz will be tied to many coaching jobs in the coming months. He's surely a possibility to move up to a G5 program — it's likely he's drawn interest on that front already after winning FCS national championships in 2019 and 2021 — or, as Thamel earlier suggested, perhaps he would be interested in taking a defensive coordinator gig at a P5 as a gateway to a P5 head coaching gig.

The speculation is going to be hot and heavy in the coming months.

Imagine, for example, if Klieman gets the Nebraska job. Could Entz go to Lincoln to be his defensive coordinator? Would Taylor consider Entz for Kansas State? If Matt Campbell goes from Iowa State to Lincoln, could Entz (an Iowa native) be the next head coach of the Cyclones? Or was Klieman going from FCS to P5 a one-time anamoly because of his ties to Taylor?

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And how about this angle: Would Entz prefer to stay at in Fargo if NDSU got a chance to move to FBS? Hello, Mountain West Conference or American Athletic Conference? My gut says that would be Entz's preference (I haven't talked career goals with him) because in some ways it would be the most attractive option.

How could you beat building an FBS program from the ground up (with a massive FCS headstart)?

If NDSU was to move up, the head coach would get pretty much whatever he wanted — NDSU and Fargo would accept nothing less than making sure the Bison were successful in G5 — and Entz could build the program how he wanted. What a dream opportunity for a 49-year-old coach.

At this point, though, there is nothing on the horizon for NDSU to move up. So Entz's job speculation will continue to be a thing.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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