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McFeely: ESPN lists Bison's Entz as coach with potential to move up ladder

NDSU head coach has two FCS national titles in three years, fueling speculation he could move on after this season

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North Dakota State head football coach Matt Entz is on ESPN's list of coaches potentially moving up after this season.
David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO — Let the job speculation about North Dakota State head coach Matt Entz begin — about four months earlier than expected.

Entz was listed by a national media outlet as being a top head coach below the Power 5 level who'll be considered for a move up the ladder when the coaching-change cycle begins late this season.

ESPN college football writer Pete Thamel lists Entz at No. 10 among the up-and-comers — Entz is the only Football Championship Subdivision coach in the group. Thamel, though, throws a curveball in his speculation about Entz.

"He has won two of the past three national titles at a place that has sent the past two coaches, Chris Klieman and Craig Bohl, to the FBS," Thamel writes. "With the FBS continuing to pull away from the FCS, would Entz be tempted by a Power 5 defensive-coordinator job if there are no head-coach opportunities?"

That Entz was named among coaches who might have potential job opportunities at season's end is not a surprise. He's 37-4 overall in three years, including 20-3 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Considering his 2020 team with Trey Lance at quarterback and Dillon Radunz at left tackle was cancelled because of COVID and the Bison struggled through a needless FCS spring season in 2021 with a pockmarked roster, his record had potential to be more like 44-1 or 43-2 at this point.

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Speculation of Entz moving on was always going to happen if the Bison came close to meeting expectations this season. They are the FCS preseason No. 1 and a heavy favorite to return to the title game. The fact it's Aug. 11 when stuff began to be thrown against the wall is what's surprising.

Thamel theorizing that a Power 5 assistant's job might be enough to lure Entz out of Fargo is also a bit of a twist. It's been expected that Entz would get an opportunity to be the head coach at a top-level Group of 5 school if NDSU had another playoff run to the semifinals or championship game this season.

How this plays out will be interesting, in part because of all the changes in college football conferences.

If, as expected, the highest Power 5 level of the sport (some mix of the Big Ten, Southeastern Conference, Pac-12, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference) breaks away from the Group of 5 and organizes its own division, would that spur a head coach like Entz to take an assistant's job in the Power 5? It would mean access to the Power 5 and a hefty raise (Minnesota defensive coordinator Joe Rossi, for example, has a base salary of $800,000 a year while Entz makes about $400,000 at NDSU).

Or would Entz want to remain a head coach, even if it means taking a head coaching job in whatever remains of the Group of 5? Will Group of 5 head coaching salaries remain the same with TV money so concentrated with the Big Ten and SEC?

Or would Entz remain at NDSU — which more than one college coach has told me is a top 50 head-coaching job in college football because of the ability to win, access to fundraising, community support, administrative support, facilities, etc. — believing that NDSU would find a way to move up a level to the Group of 5 or whatever the "second level" of college football becomes?

(Side note: Kellen Entz, the coach's son, is a freshman with the Bison this year. Would Entz be willing to stick around Fargo for a few more years to coach his son? How would that play into his decision, if at all?)

Entz has two years remaining on his original contract at NDSU. He signed a five-year deal in 2019 that runs throught the 2024 season (maybe it's time for an extension, Bison bosses?).

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Entz's name has not been publicly attached to any open jobs in the previous three seasons, but it's likely he or his agent were contacted by other schools or search firms. Being the head coach at NDSU and winning national championships attracts attention and athletic directors. Entz's predecessors, Craig Bohl and Chris Klieman, went from NDSU to Wyoming and Kansas State, respectively.

If it feels like December in Fargo already, it's because speculation over the future of the head coach has already begun. For that, you can thank ESPN.

The other names on ESPN's list: 1. Coastal Carolina's Jamey Chadwell, 2. Texas-San Antonio's Jeff Traylor, 3. Utah State's Blake Anderson, 4. Air Force's Troy Calhoun, 5. Northern Illinois' Thomas Hammock, 6. Army's Jeff Monken, 7. Kent State's Shawn Lewis, 8. Liberty's Hugh Freeze, 9. Colorado State's Jay Norvell.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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