Notes on the coach: Chris Klieman

Brett Hintz

Winning at smaller programs is often the way up to the top for many prospective head coaches across college football who hope to obtain head coaching status at a Power Five school. 

Each opposing coach the Texas football team has faced thus far attained their position by winning extensively at a previous school. Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman is no exception.

It's tough to make an argument that any other head coach on the Longhorns’ schedule is more deserving of their current position than Klieman, who was a proven winner before settling in Manhattan, Kansas. 

The 53-year-old coach from Waterloo, Iowa, has a track record of success that’s unmatched by the rest of Texas’ opponents and nearly anyone across the vast playing field of college football. 

Klieman led North Dakota State to unprecedented success prior to being named the Kansas State head coach. Serving first as North Dakota State’s defensive backs coach in 2011 and then as defensive coordinator from 2012-2013, Klieman was named the Football Scoop FCS Coordinator of the Year in 2012 after leading the Bison to No. 1 rankings in both scoring defense and total defense. 


Before being named head coach of North Dakota State for the 2014 season, Klieman had already led the Bison to three national championships. After his promotion, Klieman and the Bison continued their newfound tradition of absolutely annihilating the rest of the playing field.

In Klieman’s five years as head coach of the Bison, North Dakota State won the FCS National Championship four times. He’s currently tied with Jim Tressel for the most FCS National Championships as a head coach and is first in NDSU history in winning percentage at .920 and third in total wins at 69. 

It isn’t like Klieman accumulated these impressive statistics against far lesser competition, either.  Of Klieman’s 69 wins, 39 came against ranked opponents. The coach also led the Bison to two wins in two tries against FBS opponents, beating both Iowa and Iowa State.  

Klieman’s deservingness of the Kansas State job goes beyond just winning. Prior to taking over the North Dakota State program in 2014, Klieman spent 19 years coaching defensive backs and serving as defensive coordinator at smaller, lesser-known schools such as Northern Iowa, Western Illinois and Loras College.    

His previous history of sustained success and sheer experience notwithstanding, filling Bill Snyder’s shoes as head coach at Kansas State is a tough proposition for anybody. In his first year as head coach at Kansas State, Klieman impressively led the Wildcats to an 8–5 record while defeating tough opponents like Oklahoma and Mississippi State. 

It’s been an up-and-down year for the 4–4 Wildcats in 2020, as they’ve come out victorious against high-ranked Oklahoma while also losing to Arkansas State. More interestingly though, there appears to be some unknown internal strife. 

When redshirt freshman Will Jones announced he was entering the transfer portal two weeks ago, he became the 10th Wildcat to do so this season. As Klieman is aiming to rebuild the Wildcats program into a winner, losing this many players can be a problem not only for winning games but attracting prospective recruits as well. 

With that being said, Kansas State will be coming into Saturday’s matchup against Texas with extra motivation to come out on top.