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Kevin Schnepf, Published March 02 2013

Schnepf: Despite the losses, DeHoff has support of NDSU women's AD

Fargo - The last time a football team and a men’s basketball team at North Dakota State had three straight losing seasons, the Beatles had their first No. 1 hit single, “Please Please Me.”

That was 1963. Ever since then, those programs have been pleasing Bison fans for the most part. But there has been no pleasing the fans lately when it comes to the Bison women’s basketball program.

Saturday night in a half-full Bison Sports Arena, the Bison lost 94-70 to their rival South Dakota State for the 16th time in the last 17 meetings. With a 10-18 record, the Bison will limp through their third straight losing season.

You can bet the natives would be restless if Craig Bohl had three straight losing seasons in football. You can bet they would be pleading for a new coach if Saul Phillips had such a skid in men’s basketball.

So what does the future hold for Bison women’s basketball coach Carolyn DeHoff?

According to women’s athletic director Lynn Dorn, she will be back next season – no ifs, ands or buts – honoring the final year of her contract.

It’s understandable Dorn wants to give DeHoff one more chance. After all, the fifth-year head coach has been hit with what seems to be endless hardships, most notably injuries.

She had five players sitting on the bench Saturday night – unable to play – due to either a blood clot, blown-out knee, concussion or cancer. That certainly hasn’t helped DeHoff’s goal of making the Bison a routine 20-game winner.

What’s not understandable is Dorn’s inability or unwillingness to see the big picture. Even without all those injuries and illnesses, it’s doubtful the Bison would have seen 20 wins.

And it’s doubtful with the graduation of 1,000-point scorers Katie Birkel and Dani DeGagne that Bison fans have any reason to think their team will be any better next season.

Meanwhile at South Dakota State, head coach Aaron Johnston has produced 10 20-win seasons in the last 12 years. This is what Bison fans expect – and they should, considering NDSU’s repeated proclamation of its commitment to excellence.

Johnston’s latest version of Summit League dominance was once again too much for the Bison. Attacking a porous Bison defense, the Jackrabbits made so many layups – it looked like pregame warmups.

So what’s the difference between the two programs right now?

“It’s a program we are all chasing right now,” said DeHoff, who was an assistant at Utah before coming to NDSU. “I’ve been there before (at Utah) when we won conference championship after conference championship. When you live in it, your kids have an unbelievable belief that they are going to win no matter who they face.

“We need to get a taste of that.”

DeHoff may be a very nice person – perhaps too nice as a coach. But she has not produced the excellence that Amy Ruley generated with five national championships in the 1990s and BSA crowds reaching 7,000. This season, the average attendance has dipped below 700.

During her five seasons at NDSU, DeHoff has produced only two Summit League first teamers – Birkel and Abby Plucker. And they were Ruley recruits. It is becoming clear that DeHoff’s recruiting – considered a strength when she was hired – has not made the Bison better.

DeHoff has only one win in the Summit League tournament. And in addition to a 1-10 record against SDSU, DeHoff is 3-8 against Summit upper-tier team Oakland and 0-1 against old rival UND.

While Phillips has methodically become the fourth winningest men’s coach at NDSU with a 106-75 record, DeHoff now has a 66-80 mark.

That’s not pleasing to Bison fans – who for at least one more year, it seems, will be pleading: Please, please me.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or kschnepf@forumcomm.com. Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com