Coach Mussman Let Go By UND

The UND administration, led by Athletic Director Brian Faison, has decided to cancel the last two years of Coach Chris Mussman’s contract.  Mussman’s tenure as the head coach of UND will end immediately, being UND played it’s last game of the 2013 on Saturday – losing 34-18 to UC-Davis.  We are told the entire staff has been relieved of their duties as well.  Mussman’s buyout is 175k.

Mussman’s coaching record at UND in his six season’s was 31-34.  He was previously the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at UND for nine seasons, leading them to the 2001 National Championship over Grand Valley State.

Mussman inherited an extremely unique situation for a head coach when he was named to the UND head job back in 2008.  UND had just finished it’s last year of Division II competition and was embarking on the transition to FCS football (formerly D1-AA).  UND was without a conference when they made the move so they joined the Great West Conference, which was made up of teams that were also making the transition to Divison 1.  There were only five teams in the conference so it was up to UND to find seven non-conference games per year.

The UND nickname debate began to rear it’s ugly head during the transition, also.  Several teams, like Minnesota and Wisconsin, came out and said they would not play UND in any non-conference sports due to the Sioux nickname.  It basically put a cloud over the athletic department and took up valuable time and resources when those were sorely needed during the transition to D1 for all sports.

The UND football program never did get the “signature win” during the Mussman era that the program to hang it’s hat on.  We feel that really hurt the loyalty of the fanbase.  With the success that NDSU and SDSU had during the transition and afterwards, the fans were expecting that same kind of success and it never came.

Mussman’s best season by far was the 2011 year when UND went 8-3 and won the Great West Conference Championship by beating rival South Dakota with a furious 21-point fourth quarter comeback.

By far, the low point of Mussman’s tenure was the 2009 home loss to NAIA Sioux Falls College.  They had just come off a Homecoming victory over South Dakota in front of 12,400 fans and things were seemingly peaking during the second year of the transition.  That was, until the Cougars showed up at the Alerus Center and beat UND 28-13.  UND was never really in it and consequently, the UND fanbase never seemed to be 100% into it after that, either.  Losing to an NAIA squad when you were supposed to now be “FCS” was inexcusable to many.

With all that being said, one thing that cannot be denied and must be commended is the dedication Coach Mussman had to the UND Football program.  He came to UND in 1999 from Mankato State as new the offensive line coach.  Basically, he took a demotion from being the offensive coordinator at Mankato to be the offensive line coach at UND.  He wanted to be in Grand Forks and work for the Fighting Sioux.  Sure enough a year later he became the offensive coordinator and a year after that he helped lead them to the school’s only National Championship.  His offenses were always able to run the ball effectively while hurting teams with timely play-action deep balls.  They made the D2 playoffs all but one year from 2001 to 2007.  Mussman then got his first big chance at being a head coach when former Coach Dale Lennon left to go to Southern Illinois.

We would like to thank Chris Mussman and his staff for their years of time and dedication to the UND Football program.  We wish all of them the best of luck in the future.


18 Responses

  1. If you want to play with the big boys you have to pay with the big boys. Muss was handicapped from the start by the athletic dpt cheapskating the football staff salaries. In order to attract the quality candidates needed to make us successful in the Big Sky UND needs to make significant increases in the football staff salaries.structure.

    1. UND92,96

      I’ve heard this mentioned a number of times, and while I suspect there’s some truth to it, I recall Lennon operating under similar constraints, but still finding some quality assistants–Tibesar, Bubba, Muss, Dosch, Underwood, etc. Muss did find a few gems of his own, such as Carey, but maybe just not enough of those future head coach-types.

      With that said, I am confident the next coach will have a much larger budget.

    2. Den

      You can buy a nag for a lot of money or a champion horse. The campion will prevail no matter how much you pay for the nag. You can pay a poor coach well or a good coach poorly. The results will be the lousy if there is not any quality behind the individual. The good coach will rise to the surface like any good employee regardless of pay. Quality will come to the surface period. I think Mussman was a good ol coach and probably an oc. But he was not, I repeat, not head coach material even if you paid him 10 times what they did. Most of the games reminded me of an unprepared high school team. Whether that is on his staff or him, the buck stopped with him. I wish him well, he seems like a very decent man. We all reach a level,in life where the competition is better than we are. All the best to him in whatever he does in the future.

  2. Siouxfan46

    While that is true, you have to remember Dale was in charge of a DII program, DI football is a whole different animal. If we are to attract the head coach and assistants we need to be successful the football salary scale has to be drastically increased.. I never could understand spending the money on the new practice facility while, at the same time, low balling the coaches salaries.

    1. UND92,96

      From the job listing released today, we now know the MINIMUM salary for Muss’s replacement will be $150k, and likely more than that. So I think it’s safe to say that the coordinators will also be paid far more than their predecessors. Not sure about the position coaches.

  3. Old Time Hockey

    Why do you have to blame the performance of the football program on the nickname? Are you saying Mussman would have had a better team this year if the university would have dropped the name according to the NC$$’s timeline? Quit be an apologist and dwell on where the blame truely lies! Chris and his staff didn’t get it done and the alumni and fans reacted by not attending games.

    1. Who blamed the performance of the football program on the nickname? It was included as one small issue that held them back because they were black-balled in scheduling and also conference affiliation. Conferences were telling the UND admin’s they were well aware of the issue and didn’t want to deal with it.

    2. OTH, thanks for the readership and comment.

      We are simply pointing out that right or wrong, it was something that was used against them in recruiting and scheduling. That is indisputable. Sad bud true.

  4. Old Time Hockey

    My point is we can place the blame on a variety of excuses, but the fact that the coaching staff was subpar is the main reason the football program is in shambles! As crazy as it sounds, I don’t put this all on Muss. The AD and the administration at UND has much to blame as well. They hired him from within and didn’t go out and get the right guy like NDSU did. I know it is easy to be the armchair qb here, but wasn’t the handwriting on the wall years ago? I knew he wasn’t the guy after the season in which we lost to Sioux Falls, yet he was given a contract extension after we shared a GW conference title. Let’s hope Faison and crew can get it right this time or the football program will be set back for a decade! Fiasons choice will dictate his legacy at UND.

  5. SiouxManimal

    Den, too bad everyone can’t be as gifted as you. As someone who has coached at the college FB level, I can tell you quality of staff does matter. You don’t suddenly forget how to coach when you get the HeadCoach job. Different responsibilities. The coaching staff is a team within the team, and if you’re having to spell everything out to first time coaches, it’s tough. You need experienced assistants to be successful. Money does matter. Good coaches can have bad records after long runs of good years. Did they suddenly become stupid? No. There are a thousand circumstances that play into it. UND didn’t support him as far as his staff. It was embarassing at times, but it wasn’t all on Mussman. I haven’t seen anyone, anywhere say UND didn’t pay Mussman enough. That wasn’t the problem. But, most people with knowledge of college football understand that UND was not willing to bring in FCS quality staff hurt these last 6 years.
    Do you drive a thirty year old car? Or do you pay more and drive a somewhat newer one, because a car, like a coach, you get what you pay for. Faison put Mussman out there with some rusty Ford Escorts and said lets take on the new F-150’s of FCS football. Hopefully, we’ll see some newer models for us in years to come.

    1. UND92,96

      That seems a bit harsh regarding Muss’s staff. Were they great? Clearly not. But at least for awhile during Muss’s tenure the staff included a future FBS head coach, and a future dII head coach. And even with the money to pay an experienced staff, it still doesn’t necessarily work out. Look at SIU, for example. Lots of experience. Large budget. Mediocre results. And we know at least most of those guys are good coaches.

  6. SiouxManimal

    The future FBS coach reference was a fluky set of circumstances, and he left. But, I’m talking especially going into this past season. Faison had a choice with both coordinator positions open, and minimal experience on staff to spend some money and bring in some help. To make a statement that football matters to UND. Instead, in year 2 of the BSC, and our second year out of the transition, 2 young guys got promoted into jobs they weren’t ready for. Plus, it opened up their previous positions, creating issues there (special teams). The only reason Brian F. would do what he did was money. If football truly mattered, at least one of those positions would have been filled from the outside by a quality, proven coordinator. Now, suddenly we seemingly can spend the dollars. I think Faison failed Mussman and he should have been the one let go. His cheapness set back UND football, much more so than the head coaching did.

    1. UND92,96

      Obviously neither one of us is going to change his mind, but honest question–do you think experienced, proven coordinators would have been available and would have wanted to come into a situation where a sixth-year head coach with a career record around .500 was coming off a 5-6 season and was facing a brutal schedule in 2013? It seems to me it may have been tough to attract really good candidates in such a situation even if money were not an issue.

      Kotelnicki was more than qualified to become defensive coordinator. Not sure about Schleusner, but it wasn’t necessarily his fault that all the quarterbacks were freshmen, or that the offensive line couldn’t open holes for the undersized running backs. If Braden Hanson or Marcus Hendrickson were still quarterback, and Lynch and McGurran were still on the offensive line, I suspect Schleusner would have looked a lot better as o-coordinator.

    2. It is our understanding that Brian Faison gave all staff hiring discretion and jurisdiction to Coach Mussman himself and all final decisions on staff hires were his.

      Whether anyone argues that he made the right hires or not can certainly be debated given the circumstances. We happen to believe that in the long term, the jury is still out on the 2 young, 1st year coordinators (Kotelnicki and Schleusner). However, we also believe the assumption that Faison had final say on coordinator hirings is patently false. Coach Mussman was given something resembling “carte blanche” on all staff hires as far as we know (minus salary).

      Something to the effect of: “here’s your budget, go find your coaches”.

      Put it this way: we dont believe that Brian Faison is a ‘savvy football guy’ in terms of knowledge, networking and connections in the football world. It’s just not one of his strengths. However, there are many other things he does well in the office as AD to offset that.

  7. Sioux1

    I don’t think that the press conference coming off one of the thrashings calling his players a “bunch of divas”, did Muss or his players any good. That was probably THE END…just let him finish out the miserable season.

  8. Mike

    I know for a fact Mussman wasn’t given free rein to hire who he wanted. Saying “minus salary” in mind numbingly dumb. If I say I’ll give you carte blanche to buy any new car you want, but if I am only willing to give you $15,000 for it, you’re not going to get much. The new Yugo may be “your pick”, but it’s not what you expected or hoped could be afforded. You can get “something”. Just not what you expect to be functional and dependable.

    It was all based on economics. Faison playing a CYA game if you can actually get him on record saying that. Here’s 40 to 50k a year for your coaches, now go out there and get a great staff.

    And yes, every year there are quality, experienced FCS and FBS coaches looking for that shot at becoming an FCS coordinator. They probably would have come to GF, just not for $45,000 a year.

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