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Inside North Dakota State's efforts to keep Craig Bohl

Success is often a double-edged sword in college football. The more you win, the more bigger programs want a piece of your success. And as North Dakota State made its march to an eventual second straight national championship last December, school officials worked feverishly to insure head coach Craig Bohl wasn't poached by a bigger program. 

Kyle Potter of Forum News Service provided a fascinating inside look at the school's efforts to keep Bohl by examining emails between North Dakota State President Dean Bresciani, athletics director Gene Taylor and the school's top attorney. Entering negotiations, the trio knew Bohl wanted to stay - in fact, it was Bohl that initiated negotiations for a contract extension - and that the length and payout of the extension was not a point of contention. Bohl ultimately signed an eight-year contract extension, keeping him in Fargo through 2021 when he'll be 63-years-old, paying him $205,503 with an annual raise of five percent, three percent of all home game ticket sales, $60,000 for media appearances, $2,500 for each road Missouri Valley Football Conference win and $15,000 for a national championship. 

But, in an effort to protect themselves should Bohl leave, North Dakota State took some unusual, unprecedented and ultimately untenable steps, which Potter says served as the only negotiating hang-ups between the two sides.

Should Bohl leave North Dakota State for another FCS or lower-level FBS job he will owe a $100,000 buyout. But if Bohl were to take a BCS job, he would owe a payout of twice his annual salary - $413,000, plus five percent each year. 

"Forum News Service requested head football coach contracts from the nine other top-ranked FCS teams," Potter writes. "None of the coaches at the four schools who responded to the request — the University of Montana, Montana State University, Towson University and Sam Houston State University — had provisions similar to Bohl’s payout structure in their contracts."

Considering Bohl's salary at a Big Ten school would easily top seven-figures, it's doubtful a $413,000 payout would stop him from leaving - nor would it come close to scaring away any potential BCS suitors - but it's admirable of North Dakota State to grab any cash it can.

“If a BCS school comes around, we wanted to make it enough that we could do a search and help us replace Craig if he did leave,” Taylor said.

Next, the new contract stipulates Bohl would officially be barred from contacting any North Dakota State recruits for a period of one year (although Bresciani pushed for two) unless Bohl's new program had contacted the recruit before his hiring. First, the Big Ten and Missouri Valley operate in different recruiting stratospheres and even if Bohl wanted to bring a recruit or two along with him, enforcing this finder's fee would be impossible.

“If he leaves here for a bigger job, the chances of him recruiting our potential recruits are slim,” Taylor acknowledged, “even if he were to go to Minnesota.”

“These recruits are going to be good recruits, and people know about them,” added University of Minnesota Sports Business Institute CEO Rayla Allison, who was consulted for this story. “NDSU doesn’t own that information.”

There was also one provision Bohl requested to which Bresciani voiced an objection. In the event Bohl completes his contract extension at North Dakota State, a two-year contract would kick in that paid Bohl $152,500 - half of his 2021 salary - for a fundraising/administrative position. 

“What is it we would have him do? And this isn’t an environment where ‘do nothing” will play,” Bresciani wrote. “The other is how it would go over in the public (e.g. the guy gets let go and still has a job … ‘we’ which will be made to be taxpayers … pay for.)”

In the end, though, the deal was signed January 1 of this year, the Bison took home their second straight championship four days later and are off to a 4-0 start to 2013. 

“I don’t see coach looking at any opportunities. I really don’t,” Taylor said. “I feel the reason he wanted to (sign an extension) is so he didn’t have to worry about that stuff.”

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