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Jeff Kolpack column: Life is fine without coach dad

Bobby Babich is 5-foot-10, 184 pounds. He's a freshman at North Dakota State who lives in a dormitory like thousands of kids. He's a cornerback on the football team, a player who was thrust into action last fall in his first year of school. He's ...

Bobby Babich is 5-foot-10, 184 pounds. He's a freshman at North Dakota State who lives in a dormitory like thousands of kids.

He's a cornerback on the football team, a player who was thrust into action last fall in his first year of school.

He's also human.

He knows there were snide comments from the public last year. It's the same predictable stuff that every coach's kid has heard -- "You're only on the team because of your dad" or "You're starting because your dad's the coach."

"No one ever said anything up front to me," he said. "I'm sure people said things. People can say what they want."

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Dad, Bison head coach Bob Babich, left for an assistant coaching position with the St. Louis Rams, and Bobby was put in the same pool with everybody else when Craig Bohl arrived last month. This week, he was listed as a starting cornerback.

So much for the family favoritism argument.

"Maybe it proves something to some people," he said. "It doesn't bother me. It shows I can play, I guess, and I'm not there just because of Dad."

Time will tell if he holds his starting spot. Senior Nate Keller is sitting out this spring because of a medical hardship and he could supplant Babich of the starting nod. Other players could rise ahead of him. At the least, it appears he'll play a lot next fall.

"I love everything that's going on now," he said.

There wasn't much love last fall when the Bison went 2-8. Babich had a double dose of pressure; not only did he have to learn the ropes as a rookie, and there were teams that exploited his inexperience, he watched his family endure an uncharacteristic NDSU losing season.

At first, he said he took the criticism levied against his dad personally. Not a week went by when "fire" and "Babich" were not used in the same sentence.

Bobby came to a decision, probably for the sake of his sanity: "I just thought, it doesn't matter if they rip him or try to bring him down," he said. "They don't understand what's going on behind the scenes."

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Perhaps growing up in a coaching environment, where criticism is common, thickened his skin.

It's different now. Whenever Bob got a new coaching job, it was always his wife, Nancy, and his two kids who stayed back.

That happened, on average, every couple of years. This time, it was Bobby who got separated because of a coaching change.

"Out of this whole deal, I think my mom took it the hardest," Bobby said.

Ask him on the spot how many times his family has moved over the years and his best guess is somewhere between eight and 10. "I lost count," he said.

He didn't think of leaving when his dad went to the Rams.

"I didn't come here just because my dad was here," he said.

He came to NDSU to try and earn a starting berth. This week, he succeeded.

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Readers can reach Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546 or jkolpack@forumcomm.com

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