Entz's path to NDSU head football coach was 20 years in the making
By Jeff Kolpack
Forum News Service
FARGO — Matt Entz was notified last Tuesday night by North Dakota State athletic director Matt Larsen that the Bison administration wanted to interview him a day later about becoming the school’s next head football coach.
That meeting was held Wednesday night at Larsen’s house.
“When we sat with him, I wasn’t sitting in front of somebody who put together a plan over the course of the last 24 hours,” Larsen said. “He put together a plan that he’d been working on the last 20 years of his life.”
Those 20 years culminated in Entz being formally introduced on Monday afternoon as the 31st NDSU head coach. He’ll replace Chris Klieman after the Bison play Eastern Washington on Jan. 5 in the NCAA Division I FCS national title game in Frisco, Texas.
It will be the first head coaching position for Entz, who has been the NDSU defensive coordinator the past five seasons.
“I know I’m ready,” said the 46-year-old Entz.
Entz said he and Klieman began having conversations more than a week ago when Klieman was in the hunt for the Kansas State job. One topic: Would Entz go with Klieman to Kansas State or remain at NDSU and go for the head coaching job?
“It went back to what my goals were 20 years ago and they remained the same,” Entz said. “I wanted to be a head football coach and there’s no better place to be a head coach than at a place that has an unbelievable fan base and unbelievable resources. This is home to us. This is home to my kids and I look forward to getting busy.”
Entz has yet to sign an NDSU contract and Larsen said he’s looking at a Jan. 1 starting date.
“We talked about a couple of things, amount of years and compensation,” Larsen said. “It was really more of, hey we would love to have you be our head coach, we want you to do it for a long period of time and let’s figure out the details.”
Larsen said he interviewed two other unnamed candidates “with previous ties to NDSU” by phone.
“At the end of the day, Matt rose to the top,” he said.
Larsen said he heard from several former players like Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and former coaches like Los Angeles Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
“It was a consistent message, it wasn’t backing one candidate over another,” Larsen said. “It was reinforcing just how important Bison football is to them, upholding the tradition, history and culture that they helped build. You always knew it was there but to hear from them individually during that process just reinforced what a special football program this is.”
Entz said wants to retain all of the current Bison assistant coaches and will delegate his defensive coordinator duties to another coach. It has yet to be determined if any of the current assistants will go with Klieman to Kansas State.
“I know I need to reach out to the offensive players and the offensive coaches,” he said. “For the last five years I’ve been tucked away in defensive staff room.”
Entz got emotional when thanking Klieman at the outset of his press conference at Sanford Health Athletic Complex. Entz was an eighth-grader when he watched Klieman play in the Iowa state high school football championship game. Both are from Waterloo, Iowa.
“There’s times where I’ve felt like the little brother from Waterloo,” Entz said. “But that’s OK. It’s been a good ride. He’s allowed me to be in everything I wanted to be part of with this program.”
Entz will handle NDSU’s signing day Wednesday when the Bison will announced their next recruiting class.
He said Bison fans will not notice any changes to how the football program goes about its business. The offensive will not change and the Bison will still operate the Tampa 2 defense.
“Expectations are the same,” he said.