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McFeely: NDSU's Klieman has talked with Kansas State, but Wildcats might be cooling on him

North Dakota State head football coach Chris Klieman speaks during a press conference after winning the NCAA FCS quarterfinal playoff football game against Colgate on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 2
North Dakota State head football coach Chris Klieman checks the scoreboard during the NCAA FCS quarterfinal playoff football game against Colgate on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 2

FARGO -- The reality of college football, the business side, hit North Dakota State last week. Bison head coach Chris Klieman confirmed after their playoff victory over Colgate Saturday, Dec. 8, that he has, indeed, talked with Kansas State about its job opening. He also said he has not been offered the job.

That, actually, might bode well for Bison fans who want to see him stay in Fargo. The buzz around Manhattan, Kan., is that Klieman has gone from overwhelming favorite to simply the favorite to replace Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder. Overwhelming favorite was a Friday thing. Simply the favorite was a Saturday thing. Things change fast in big-time college football.

What a difference a day makes. And that difference might be backlash Taylor heard from Kansas State fans and boosters once Klieman's name became public as the top candidate. It's the story we've told you about in this space before: The thought of a Division I FCS coach going directly to a major-conference Football Bowl Subdivision makes people around big programs break out in hives.

"A small-college coach? Taking over our big-time program? Over our dead bodies! Where are the pitchforks and torches? We're going to Taylor's house!"

It's not over until it's over, never say never, it still might happen -- but the chances were better Saturday that Klieman would stay in Fargo than they were on Friday.

He said, as he's said since the rumors and speculation first popped up after Snyder's retirement, that he's focusing on coaching the Bison in the playoffs. With Saturday's hammer-job of a solid but unspectacular Colgate team, NDSU advanced to the semifinals for a remarkable eighth straight season.

"We discussed it a little bit with the team on Monday that there was going to be some outside noise and we needed to block the outside noise this week," Klieman said. "I did have a conversation with Kansas State this week. But I think six or seven other guys had a conversation with Kansas State this week and that's as far as it's gone."

Has the job been offered to him?

"No, it has not," Klieman said.

Is he scheduled to talk with Kansas State again?

"Not that I'm aware of," he said.

Is there a timetable when he might know his status with the Wildcats?

"I don't know. Like I said, I had a conversation," Klieman said. "I know six or seven other guys had a conversation the last I've heard. That was late in the week. My focus is on this football team and our ability to move on. I've got 24 seniors that I've brought in here that are really important to me."

Would he take the job if it was offered?

"I don't know that," Klieman said.

Senior quarterback Easton Stick said the Bison players are aware of the talk about Klieman and Kansas State, but said it has not been a distraction. It's hard to argue, given the way Stick and the Bison offense clicked against Colgate and how viciously the NDSU defense played.

"Coach is focused on this group right here. We were doing the same thing," Stick said. "Look, let's be honest. Coach deserves any opportunity that he would get, if he did. We love him and support him regardless of what happens. It's not a distraction."

This is a big week upcoming. South Dakota State, the team remaining in the field with the best chance to beat the Bison, is coming to the dome for the semifinals. While the heat around Klieman's name has perhaps subsided a little around Manhattan, there is still the chance he could be named the Wildcats' next coach. Whatever is going to happen fast is going to happen fast, probably this week, given the accelerated nature of the college coaching carousel.

Until then, he and NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen say there is nothing about which to talk when it comes to the coach's job status.

"As of right now, Chris Klieman is our football coach," Larsen said. "Until that changes, there is really nothing to say. He's our coach."

Klieman, though, admitted he made no promises to the current crop of Bison about whether he'd be coaching the team for the rest of the season.

"Nope," he said when asked. "We talk on a daily basis that I hope to have a great practice on a Thursday or on a Wednesday and I hope we have a great game today."

The saga continues, at least for a little while longer. The answer of whether Klieman will be coaching the Bison next season, or even against the Jackrabbits, will come soon. Then the questions about Kansas State will stop, which will undoubtedly be a welcome relief for the coach.

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