Kansas State University

How Chris Klieman plans to split his time between K-State and North Dakota State

Chris Klieman is introduced as the new football coach at Kansas State

Chris Kleiman was introduced as the 35th football coach of the Kansas State Wildcats on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 12, 2018, replacing Bill Snyder, who had coached the Wildcats for 27 years.
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Chris Kleiman was introduced as the 35th football coach of the Kansas State Wildcats on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 12, 2018, replacing Bill Snyder, who had coached the Wildcats for 27 years.

Chris Klieman is coaching two football teams at once.

By day, he is the man in charge at North Dakota State as the Bison forge ahead in the FCS playoffs.

By night, he is in control at Kansas State as the Wildcats look to recruit and build toward the 2019 season following Bill Snyder’s retirement.

It’s a demanding schedule for anyone that values sleep, but Klieman says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“That’s coaching in general,” Klieman said at his introductory news conference Wednesday. “Any coach has been there and any coach in any sport knows that you multitask. Because I care about both places, I’ll pay attention to both places. It’s pretty simple.”

Klieman’s decision to finish the season at North Dakota State instead of immediately moving to Manhattan struck some K-State fans the wrong way. With early signing day approaching Dec. 19 and a plethora of other items on his to-do list, they would have preferred him to dive into his new job rather than continue focusing on his old one.

But it’s standard practice for many coaches. Scott Frost, for example, split time between Nebraska and Central Florida as the Knights prepared for their bowl game a season ago.

Klieman’s new boss encouraged him to work both jobs.

K-State athletic director Gene Taylor also used to work for North Dakota State and hired Klieman as head coach there in 2014 to replace Craig Bohl. The Bison, 13-0, can advance to the FCS championship game in Frisco, Texas with a victory over South Dakota State on Friday. Taylor doesn’t want to get in the way of that run.

Winning national championships is what he hired him to do, first at North Dakota State and now K-State. Klieman has already won three with the Bison and can make it four later this month.

“One of the reasons I like Chris is,” Taylor said, “I looked him in the eye and asked, ‘Why do you want to replace Coach Bohl?’ He just won three national championships. The expectation at North Dakota State at the time wasn’t anything less than a national championship. If you go 8-3 and get into the playoffs, that’s not going to be a good thing. He looked at me in the eye and said, ‘Gene, we are not only going to win another national championship, I’m going to win a lot more national championships.’

“That’s pretty brazen, I’ll give him that. But he backed it up.”

Klieman feels like he owes it to North Dakota State to finish the season there. But he is also trying to hit the ground running at K-State.

He delayed his flight from Fargo to Manhattan until he concluded practice on Tuesday and moved his return flight up so he could be back in time for the team’s next practice on Wednesday.

“When I head back, I’ve got practice tonight and I will make a few phone calls late at night for Kansas State,” Klieman said. “I’ll turn my attention back on Thursday to the football team at North Dakota State, then on Friday from 7 to 10:30, nobody call me. I’ve got a lot of things going on and we got a football game to play.”

Whenever he has spare time, Klieman will be on the phone recruiting for K-State. He has already reached out to all of the team’s committed players and he has begun extending new scholarship offers to other recruits.

After Friday’s game, he plans to hit the road and visit several recruits in the Lawrence and Kansas City areas. Snyder rarely left Manhattan to recruit near the end of his 27-year tenure with the Wildcats. So his travel schedule may feel like a shock at first.

“This is the last weekend to recruit,” Klieman said, “so I will be out for Kansas State this weekend, looking and recruiting.”

If all goes well, North Dakota State will advance to the FCS championship game and K-State will land some new recruits. Both are major priorities for Klieman.

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Kellis Robinett covers Kansas State athletics for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. A winner of more than a dozen national writing awards, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and three children.

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