Coach Schweigert takes the field in his first game at the helm Thursday night


David L. Dodds

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Coach Schweigert takes the field in his first game at the helm Thursday night

On Christmas Eve last year, University of North Dakota sports fans got a welcome gift when the school announced Kyle "Bubba" Schweigert as its 26th football coach in program history.

More than any other on the list of applicants for the head coaching job, Schweigert brought a desire to be in Grand Forks and a passion to lead UND football back to prominence. During his first press conference, his genuine tears of pride went a long way to win over any skeptics that may have been left in the crowd.

"There's no crying in football," Schweigert told the crowd just after being announced as the new head coach. He wore his usual warm Bubba smile that day but he was clearly choking back a wave of emotion.

"I truly am humbled to stand up in front of you to accept this position and to serve UND as its head football coach," Schweigert said. "We are the flagship University, and that's a big deal in this state and this region. And we're going to work hard to make it an even bigger deal."

Schweigert, a native of Zeeland, N.D., and a college coaching veteran, beat out 75 other applicants for the job. He was returning home, so to speak, to a place that he had spent 15 years as a defensive coordinator in some of the best years in the long history of UND football. Years that produced a national championship, a national runner-up finish, and several conference titles at the Division II level.

Schweigert left UND in 2003 to become a head coach at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, helping to mold that program into a conference champion. He then ascended to the Division I level, rejoining his former boss from UND, Dale Lennon, on the University of Southern Illinois coaching staff.

When the opportunity arose, Schweigert jumped at the chance to get back to his home state and UND.

Schweigert's philosophy of taking care of the football and having a strong aggressive defense is music to the ears of the many UND faithful. They also love Schweigert's playful sense of humor, which only serves to soften the truths that he speaks.

Like this little doozy from his first press conference: "We want two people miserable at halftime: the opposing QB and the opposing QB's mother."

Will Ratelle, a junior linebacker from Edina, Minn., who's seen both sides of the recent coaching transition, likes the fresh enthusiasm that Schweigert and his staff are bringing to the program. Ratelle sums up the biggest change in one word: discipline.

"The intensity is still going up with this new coaching staff," Ratelle said. "They're bringing in their own levels of intensity, and as players, we're kicking it up as well."

Schweigert said he and his staff are big on attention to detail and enforcing accountability.

"We are going to play with energy, we are going to play with emotion and we are going to be disciplined and have a team culture," Schweigert said. "That's what we are looking for from our guys ? now we'll see how that transfers to the football field."

Schweigert has preached from Day 1 that class ranking won't play a role when it comes to deciding the team's starters and depth chart.

"It does not matter whether you have 'FR' (freshman) after your name or an 'SO' (sophomore) or an 'SR,' (senior), we are going to play the guys that can help our football team in every situation," Schweigert said.

UND starting quarterback Joe Mollberg, a sophomore from Detroit Lakes, Minn., said the team has really bought into the Schweigert's "Day by Day" mantra, meaning that everyone must strive to get a little better each day.

It's that kind of thinking, Mollberg says, that has coaches and players "ready to bring UND back to where it belongs."

David Dodds University & Public Affairs writer

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