Published December 22, 2012, 12:00 AM
UMD promotes Wiese to head football coach
Minnesota Duluth promoted offensive coordinator Curt Wiese to head football coach and Karen Stromme to interim athletic director on Friday. Wiese replaces Bob Nielson, who stepped down Wednesday from his dual role as coach and AD at UMD to take over as football coach at Western Illinois.
For a university that long has strived for and thrived on stability, Minnesota Duluth’s decisions Friday to elevate Curt Wiese to head football coach and Karen Stromme to interim athletic director weren’t unexpected.
Wiese moves on up from offensive coordinator to become just the sixth head coach in the 80-year history of the Bulldogs’ football program. He replaces Bob Nielson, who stepped down Wednesday from his dual role at UMD to take over as football coach at Western Illinois.
“Since I’ve been at UMD, I’ve been comfortable here and haven’t looked at other jobs,” said Wiese, 36, who joined UMD’s staff in 2008. “We’ve had a lot of success and there’s something to be said about working with good kids and a good staff. That’s what I’m most excited about — the opportunity to stay here.”
UMD Chancellor Lendley Black said Wiese will receive a two-year contract at $80,000 per year, a yearly bump of about $23,000 from his coordinator’s salary.
“It was clear to me that he was ready to take the next step, and this was a way for us to continue our solid tradition,” Black said. “We’ve had such great success these last few years under coach Nielson’s leadership, and he’s done it with a team approach. His assistant coaches have been critical in that, especially coach Wiese.”
Since Wiese’s arrival, the Bulldogs are a NCAA Division II-best 62-7 with national championships in 2008 and 2010. He guided a UMD offense that has finished in the top 10 in scoring offense four times in the past five seasons, including setting a school record with a 46.5-points-per-game average this fall.
Wiese, who has coached 15 All-Americans and Harlon Hill finalists Ted Schlafke and Isaac Odim, expects to play a similar style of offense and intends on keeping as many coaches as he can on staff.
“Our staff has done a tremendous job here,” the native of Stoughton, Wis., said. “We’re all part of the reason that I’m in this position today, and they need to know (keeping them) is our intent.”
A former quarterback at Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference rival Minnesota State-Mankato and at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Wiese’s only previous head coaching experience was at Division III Marietta (Ohio) College. He went 9-11 there in two seasons.
Wiese says he talked with Nielson several times in the last week and his former mentor was solidly in his corner.
“He’s been supportive of this move without question, and so has Chancellor Black,” he said. “The chancellor has shown that he’s fully behind our football program.”
Black said he talked with several football coaches and athletic directors from around the country about whether to hire an AD or a coach first. At many institutions, ADs prefer to install their own hire. The situation at UMD is different, Black said.
“What I heard consistently was: ‘You have a good system at UMD and you don’t want to break that up,’” Black said. “Sure, athletic directors sometimes want to have their own people, but having a solid program in place will make us more attractive to a lot of athletic directors. They don’t have to come in here and right away fix things that are wrong or deal with a program in shambles. In some ways, it positions us better in attracting (candidates).”
Stromme, 53, who spent 21 seasons as UMD women’s basketball head coach and since 2003-04 has served as assistant athletic director and senior woman administrator, steps in to replace Nielson until a national search is undertaken for a permanent replacement. That process is expected to be completed in the spring.
“In university time frames, if you do a search in a few months, that’s lightning-speed,” Black quipped.
Black said Stromme is well-qualified and will receive a “salary enhancement” for her time in the interim role. She currently makes approximately $84,000 annually.
“In her experiences as basketball coach, assistant AD and senior administrator, she’s done incredible things and is very well-connected in the NCAA,” he said. “I don’t expect any hiccups in the transition and we’ll provide her whatever support she needs until we get the new athletic director in place.”
There’s the possibility that could be Stromme. She said Friday she will apply for the job when it opens.
“When you have been at an institution as long as I have, it becomes a part of our lives and something that we believe in strongly,” she said. “More than anything else, I think of it as a service and servant leadership. I would love the opportunity to apply.”