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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 30 2012

Bison offensive coordinator has become a Fargo fixture

Fargo - It was about a couple of months ago when 8-year-old Jake Vigen was playing football with neighborhood friends in the backyard. Taking some advice from his father, he ran a play called the “quarterback casserole” that had a positive result.

He couldn’t wait to tell his mother how well it worked.

“Mom, it’s the play, it’s the play,” he said.

On the ensuing Saturday afternoon, the North Dakota State football team ran the same play, with more complexity of course, and got a first down against Youngstown State. The man who called it was Brent Vigen, Jake’s father.

In the Fargodome stands, Molly Vigen watched another Bison event that has been so linked to their lives.

She is a former Bison women’s basketball player. He is a former Bison football player, who got his start in coaching as an NDSU graduate assistant. This is Brent’s 20th year with the program.

Both have national championship rings. Molly Reif got hers as a freshman on the 1996 Division II national title team and almost got another when the Bison finished runner-up her senior year. Brent got his last year with NDSU’s Division I Football Championship Subdivision title.

“We’ve been able to live here, raise a family, develop careers and be close to family,” Brent said. “That’s something you can’t take for granted. I know in the coaching profession that is unique. The more guys I talk to, the more I really relish that.”

It’s not easy being a football family, especially at the Division I level. The time commitment is enormous. When Brent comes home from practice, Molly said, it’s not long before he’s back on his laptop computer working.

She also said any kind of pity party is not allowed.

“It’s hard, but a lot of people have jobs like that for families,” Molly said. “People have spouses across an ocean fighting a war. Sure, sometimes it’s hard, but there’s an amazing support system that we have here.”

They make it work, she said. If Brent has a break in the office, she’ll pack up the boys and bring lunch for a half-hour. She said the families of Bison coaches get together often.

The fact she played college athletics at a high level helps with the understanding of the long hours, Brent said. They started dating when he was a graduate assistant coach, so they haven’t known any other lifestyle.

Besides Jake, there’s 5-year-old Grant and 1-year-old Luke.

The Bison host South Dakota State today in a FCS second-round game, which Molly said is also a blessing because if it weren’t for the playoffs, Brent would probably be on the road recruiting all week.

“We love it. It’s a lifestyle we love,” Molly said. “I’m definitely not ready to be done playing. This is the fun part.”

Vigen has been the only assistant to be on staff in all of head coach Craig Bohl’s 10 years at NDSU. He and Casey Bradley were the only two assistants retained when Bob Babich left for the NFL, and his immediate value to Bohl’s staff was local knowledge, specifically recruiting.

The son of Randy Vigen, the longtime football coach at Central Valley High (N.D.), he was named quarterbacks coach a year later and as the passing game coordinator, was the assistant who called most of the plays in 2006 when the Bison recorded the largest rally in school history. Trailing 24-0 to California-Davis at halftime, NDSU went to the air – especially in the last minute – to win 28-24.

He was named offensive coordinator in 2009.

“I trust him to the ‘N’-th degree and I appreciate his commitment,” Bohl said this week. “He hasn’t been one of those guys that constantly have been out looking for jobs, and not that others were out looking. But a lot of our guys have moved on.”

Vigen’s even-keel temperament was also to his benefit. Bohl likens his demeanor to that of Tom Osborne, the former Nebraska coach, who Bohl calls a mentor. Vigen has been known to pound the table a few times calling plays in the coach’s box, but that’s about the extent of him being emotional.

“You always think those guys out there yelling and screaming – half the time they’re just trying to convince somebody else they’re in charge,” Bohl said.

Vigen said despite all the years he’s invested in NDSU, it’s still a year-to-year job. It’s the reality of coaching, he said.

The other reality of being the offensive coordinator: Second guessing by fans is a given.

“I learned early on to not go on blogs, nor does he,” Molly said. “Your whole lifestyle is based on the production of 18- to 22-year-old boys. It’s crazy.”

In the case of the family, they’re whole lifestyle for over a decade has been on a school’s athletic department.

“It just feels like it’s part of us,” Molly said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia