BY JEREMY HOECK
To help get a better understanding of the next University of South Dakota football coach, I enlisted the help of someone who has seen up-close what Bob Nielson has done at Western Illinois.
Scott Holland serves as the Sports Editor and WIU beat writer for the McDonough County Voice in Macomb, Illinois.
He took a few minutes Monday to answer a few questions about Nielson’s tenure at Western Illinois (16-21 in three seasons) and the news Monday that he will be the next Coyote coach.
What is your impression of the job Nielson did at Western Illinois?
I think he did an outstanding job, He turned around a program that was not only struggling on the field, but struggling to really gain much support off of it. Interest in the program was certainly lagging, and while the attendance is still not great, the buzz surrounding the program is far greater than it was three years ago.
Coach Nielson really injected some excitement into the program and gave supporters hope that WIU football could be a national player like it was 10-15 years ago.
What was the program like before he took over?
The program was coming off an extremely rough season. The team really had no identity and there was no depth. That first spring game, it was really shocking to see how few Division I bodies were on the field. Recruiting was difficult and there were a lot of question marks about the direction in which the program was heading.
What kind of a person is he? (In other words, what can fans expect?)
Coach Nielson is not a big rah rah or flashy guy. He’s very calm and steady. He’s very guarded and close to the vest, but he’s a football lifer who has succeeded at every stop. He’s someone who has proven he can put together a solid coaching staff and can score recruiting wins even if the wins on the field are not there.
Did Nielson leaving WIU surprise you?
It did, especially for the timing of his leaving. Coach Nielson was heading into the final year of his contract and with all the success the program had this year and with all the returning starters for next year, I really thought he would stay until the end of next season, then possibly begin looking for new jobs.