Eight days in, the search for a new Kansas State football coach is over.
K-State announced Monday night that North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman has been named the Wildcats’ 35th head football coach. He will be introduced at noon Wednesday at a news conference in Manhattan.
Klieman, who succeeds hall-of-fame coach Bill Snyder, has been wildly successful in his five seasons at North Dakota State, compiling a 67-6 record with three FCS national championships and a shot at another. The No. 1-ranked Bison are 13-0 this season and will play South Dakota State on Friday in the semifinals.
Klieman will coach the Bison on Friday, though details beyond that have yet to be worked out, according to an athletic department spokesman.
“I’m very excited to have Chris Klieman lead our program,” K-State athletics director Gene Taylor said in an athletic department release. “He is a perfect fit for us, both from a personal standpoint and as a head coach.
“He is a tremendous teacher who I had the pleasure to hire at NDSU and watch him turn into a very successful coach. He will bring a ton of energy and excitement.”
It was Taylor, then AD at North Dakota State, who promoted Klieman from defensive coordinator to head coach when Chris Bohl left for Wyoming following the 2013 season.
“His teams play extremely hard, disciplined football,” Taylor said. “He’s a winner.”
Klieman, 51, has agreed to a six-year contract with a base salary of $2.3 million in 2019, with a $200,000 increase each year.
“This is an absolute dream job,” Klieman said. “I’m so happy and thrilled to follow a legend in Coach Snyder.
“I’ve followed him from afar, went to his camps while playing in Waterloo, Iowa, and played against his Kansas State team when I was at Northern Iowa. The opportunity to follow in an icon’s footsteps is something I don’t take for granted and don’t take lightly. I know I have huge shoes to fill, and I’m excited to carry on his legacy.”
K-State announced Snyder’s retirement on Dec. 2 following a 5-7 season, though he departs with a 27-year record of 215-117-1.
Klieman and Troy head coach Neal Brown emerged as the clear favorites Monday afternoon when Memphis’ Mike Norvell effectively announced that he was staying put. Klieman’s previous ties to Taylor made him a natural choice for the K-State AD.
But Taylor may have to sell some vocal K-State fans on the hire. Klieman’s lack of FBS experience — he coached defensive backs as a Kansas graduate assistant in 1997 — was a sore point for many who expressed reservations on social media and fan forums.
However, Klieman appeared undeterred.
“I have prepared my entire life for this opportunity and had great experiences at many institutions, most notably North Dakota State, where we’ve had unmatched success over the last eight years,” he said. “I can’t express how pleased I am and thank President (Richard) Myers, Gene Taylor and the search committee for trusting in me and handing over the keys to this great program.”
Klieman had immediate success after taking over for Bohl at North Dakota State. Despite losing 23 seniors from the 2013 team and replacing seven assistant coaches, he led the Bison to a 15-1 record and a national championship in 2014, then followed it up with a 13-2 mark and another title in 2015.
The Bison went 12-2 and lost in the semifinals in 2016, but hoisted a championship trophy again last year with a 15-1 record.
Klieman also has two high-profile victories over FBS opponents, beating Iowa State 34-14 in his first game as head coach and edging No. 11-ranked Iowa, 23-21, in 2016.
Klieman, originally from Waterloo, Iowa, played defensive back for Northern Iowa from 1986-90 and began coaching as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in 1991. He also had stops Western Illinois, KU and Missouri State before going to Loras College as defensive coordinator from 2002-04.
He served one year as head coach at Loras in 2005, going 3-7 before returning to Northern Iowa as an assistant and later defensive coordinator from 2005-10. He arrived at North Dakota State as an assistant coach in 2011 and was promoted to defensive coordinator the next year.
Snyder also notably had ties to the state of Iowa, as he served as offensive coordinator under Hayden Fry for 10 years with the Iowa Hawkeyes before coming to K-State in 1989.