Wayne Nelson / Forum News Service, Published December 27 2013
Schweigert touts ND heritage at UND football introduction
But at his introductory news conference Friday announcing him as UND’s 26th head football coach, one thing remains clear: Schweigert still has an unwavering passion for UND’s football program – one that holds a special meaning to the small-town kid from Zeeland, N.D.
“In reality, I’m just a small-town North Dakota guy and a carpenter’s kid,” said Schweigert. “That’s it. If this changes me, kick me in the behind because I’ve always worked hard at being just that.”
As a kid, Schweigert dreamed of playing for UND, where his older brother, Lowell, was a quarterback.
“But I couldn’t run fast enough to play here,” said Schweigert.
Now, however, Schweigert is on the run as his task in the upcoming weeks will be to hire a staff, meet with returning players and hit the recruiting trail in hopes of taking UND to the upper level of the Big Sky Conference.
“We’re moving forward,” said Schweigert. “We’re not looking back.”
Schweigert displayed a range of emotions at his packed introductory news conference at the Alerus Center.
There were tears, laughs and a major dose of humility from UND’s new coach, who spent nearly 30 minutes thanking his family and former coaches who helped shape him into the coach he is today.
Growing up in Zeeland, Schweigert said he gained a valuable outlook on life and coaching. He said his parents taught him three valuable lessons, which serve as the foundation of his coaching.
“One, it’s better to do what is right than do what is popular,” he said. “I do that when I run a team or run a defense. Sometimes, that’s real hard to do. But that’s a principle I carry with me.
“Two, the team is the most important. All decisions you make are for the good of the team. When my mom and dad took a look at things, they said, ‘we can’t do what’s best for (brothers) Lowell, Keith, Mahlon, Kent, Bubba or Shannon. We have to do what’s best for the team.
“Three, and this is really important. I was taught that when you go to school, the custodian is every bit as important as the superintendent. And you treat them both with respect. Somebody is going to be the superintendent. Somebody is going to be the custodian. The only similarity between their jobs is that they had better to it to the best of their ability. That’s the way you have to run a team.”
Schweigert spent 15 years as a UND assistant before moving on to Minnesota-Duluth and Southern Illinois, where he has spent the past six seasons as Dale Lennon’s top assistant. But Schweigert’s football philosophy hasn’t changed much since he left UND.
Schweigert remains defensive-minded, as he was known for his well-disguised blitz packages during his time as UND’s defensive coordinator.
His coaching resume from his years at the University of Jamestown, UND, Duluth and Southern Illinois has been built on defense.
“At halftime, you want two people miserable,” said Schweigert. “One is the quarterback from the opposing team. The other is that quarterback’s mother. If she’s not feeling too good about her son, you’re in pretty good shape.
“And offensively, you have to be in that same mode. You have to attack. And you have to be able to run the football.”
Schweigert said he hopes to have his coordinators in place within a week.
And he’ll be able to offer more money to his assistants.
UND athletic director Brian Faison said the salary pool for the program’s assistant coaches has been raised from $370,000 to $450,000.
“That puts us in the top five teams in the Big Sky, if not the top four, for the assistants’ pool,” said Faison. “That was critical in this (hiring) process.”
Schweigert said he knows what he wants from his staff.
“They’d better have a work ethic and they’d better think this is a great place to coach,” he said.
Once the staff is in place, recruiting will hit high gear. There is no question that UND is behind other schools in the region and Big Sky because of the late start Schweigert and is staff faces.
“But we’re going to battle for players in the region, North Dakota, Minnesota and the Midwest,” he said. “I really do believe that the heart and soul from our team needs to come from the Midwest.
“But do we have to recruit nationally as a Division I program? Yes we do.
“We have a great university to sell. We’ll have a good staff. We have a great playing facility; we have a lot of things on the docket on campus and other things on the horizon.”
Before the news conference, Schweigert said it’s been a whirlwind week for him and his family.
“I’m running on fumes,” he said.
However, he said there is no time to rest.
“We have to get to work,” he said.
Nelson is the sports editor for the Grand Forks Herald