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NDSU women's basketball coach Amy Ruley to step down after tonight's game; will take fundraising position with university

UPDATED 2:07 p.m. - North Dakota State head women's basketball coach Amy Ruley will step down from her post - but not step away from the university. The legendary coach said Monday she'll leave behind the job that she's held for three decades to ...

Amy Ruley

UPDATED 2:07 p.m. - North Dakota State head women's basketball coach Amy Ruley will step down from her post - but not step away from the university. The legendary coach said Monday she'll leave behind the job that she's held for three decades to take on a fundraising position with the athletic department.

Her new job -- associate athletic director for development -- has been in the works for a few months. Her legacy has been in the works for 29 years.

"The kids have been tremendous," Ruley said, holding back her emotions. "To have the quality of athlete we've had to work with has been fantastic. We'll have a new coach coming in and the table is set."

NDSU women's athletic director Lynn Dorn said a national search for a replacement will begin immediately. Ruley will work with NDSU senior associate athletic director Erv Inniger, who took a similar path when he resigned as the men's head basketball coach in 1992.

"All good things come to an end," Ruley said. "One door closes and another one opens. North Dakota State and Fargo-Moorhead is full of great people and to stay part of that ... what more could you ask for?"

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The Bison host Centenary College (La.) tonight in what will be Ruley's last home game. At 16-11, NDSU has an outside chance of being selected for the Women's National Invitational Tournament. Ruley said a tourney official contacted NDSU for additional information.

"But we're not counting on that," Ruley said.

If the WNIT doesn't come calling, it will end an incredible coaching run. The Bison won five national championships under Ruley including a 32-0 season in 1994-95. That was the middle of a four-year string of Division II national titles. For her feats, Ruley was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.

Fittingly, Ruley is going out on a hot streak. The Bison have won seven of their last eight games, bringing her career record to 670-198.

Moreover, Ruley said the fact NDSU is in the final year of a Division I reclassification, which rendered the program ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, played a part in her decision.

"We're finishing out the transition and now it feels for me personally like the right time," Ruley said. "A new coach will be coming in and we'll be eligible for postseason play."

Dorn said Ruley was under no pressure to move on. Asked if she was feeling burned out, Ruley said the day-to-day routine sometimes got monotonous - such as recruiting at AAU tournaments during the summer.

"Sitting in those gyms, I swear if there was a dog show in there, the Humane Society would cancel it because it was 100 degrees," she said.

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Ruley was named the head coach in 1979 fresh from her playing days at Purdue University, where she was inducted into that school's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004. She spent one year as a graduate assistant at Western Illinois prior to coming to NDSU.

Her first team went 14-15. But starting with a 19-12 record in 1980-81, Ruley's teams ripped of 25 consecutive winning seasons.

A breakthrough year came in 1985-86 when the Bison reached the Division II championship game before losing to California Poly Pomona. Ruley won her first national title in 1991.

"She set the standard internally for us and all of the women's programs," Dorn said. "Her impact is immeasurable. I will assure you she had the greatest impact among young women that were part of her program. She's leaving her footprints all over the program as a teacher, a coach and a mentor."

For more on this story, check inforum.com and Tuesday's Forum for updates.

Amy Ruley

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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