Kolpack: Greeno's voice will always be heard

You stumble through this journalism trade and you literally hear thousands of voices, witness thousands of personalities and see thousands of actions and reactions.

You stumble through this journalism trade and you literally hear thousands of voices, witness thousands of personalities and see thousands of actions and reactions.

The year was 1987 and fresh out of college, the young scribe nabbed his first newspaper job in Jamestown, N.D. The beat called for him to cover Class B schools in central North Dakota and the local college football team, which he had only known as "The Pumpkinheads" while growing up in Fargo.

Then he met that voice.

Over the years, that voice would pop into his head from time to time, just out of the blue for no reason.

"A lot of people imitated his voice," said Southern Illinois assistant coach Bubba Schweigert, who in 1987 was a young assistant coach at Jamestown College. "It had such an effect on people and has such an effect on us."


That voice, Rollie Greeno, will continue to live on even though he physically isn't a part of us anymore. The legendary coach died this week at the age of 83.

That cub reporter who covered him in 1987 was me, and what a way to kick off a career with a guy like Rollie. Funny. Compelling. Sarcastic. Thoughtful.

Nothing was ever right with his team.

He was the master of the downplay, and it became quite the battle of which team had more problems between he and Dickinson State head coach Hank Biesiot.

It took until this week and a conversation with Schweigert, but I finally found out why. It was about the background of most of his players and a depression era of sorts at Jamestown College.

Rollie loved the small-town kids because at some point in high school, they were freshmen or sophomores, or younger, getting beat up on varsity. They were tough and tested.

They were the type of kids who would stick with your program. He knew the small-town kids would compete from their first day of school until they graduated. They wouldn't quit on you.

Jamestown College had some dire financial times in the '80s, and Schweigert believes Rollie saved the college with his recruiting and his attitude. It's a private school that had very little funding for its athletic programs, so he needed to find players willing to do a lot with a little.


"We were the underdog and we were going to have to fight," Schweigert said. "Everybody was our rival, even though Valley City State was."

So why downplay his team?

"He always made us believe that we were being challenged," Schweigert said. "Whether it was true or not, it didn't matter. He made us believe that. He said we have it tougher here."

Rollie said it in his voice, one often imitated but never duplicated. And, thankfully, one that will never go away.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546 or

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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