By Chad Courrier
---- — MANKATO — It's been a long time since Joe Klanderman wasn't affiliated with the Minnesota State football program, and back in his playing days, North Dakota State was the "enemy."
"That was a long time ago," Klanderman said. "A lot of things have changed since then."
Klanderman announced Thursday that he has resigned his position as defensive coordinator to accept a job coaching the defensive backs at North Dakota State, a former member of the defunct North Central Conference that currently plays in the Football Championship Subdivision, or more commonly known as Division 1AA. He starts his new job today.
"I got an offer, and I think I would have regretted not making this move," Klanderman said. "I think you regret 100 percent of the chances you don't take, and I've had offers before that I wasn't interested in. This is a great opportunity, but I really struggled with it."
Klanderman played defensive line for the Mavericks from 1997-2001 and has coached here ever since, spending the last seven seasons as the defensive coordinator. Minnesota State has had a defense that has been ranked in the top 10 nationally the past two seasons, with especially effective numbers against the run. Last season, the Mavericks allowed 17.8 points and 289.9 yards per game, with 74.4 yards rushing.
"The people there are unbelievable, and that's what I'm going to miss," Klanderman said. "You get to watch the players grow, and the other coaches, they're all my close friends. Those guys mean the world to me. It was really hard to tell them I was leaving."
Minnesota State coach Aaron Keen said he's note sure if he'll promote from within the staff or look outside for Klanderman's replacement.
"I'm excited for Joe and his family," Keen said. "He's been a very valuable part of what we've accomplished with our football program. It was probably only a matter of time before he had an opportunity to be a head coach or move up the ladder to a program like North Dakota State. I think we all wish Joe the best in this new chapter in his life.
"I told the coaches and the players that it's my job to find the best defensive coordinator possible. The concerns of our players or recruits ... our commitment to playing great defense will never change at Minnesota State. There may be some tweaks, but there won't be drastic changes. We still wants players to have passion and play with excitement on the field, which are things that Joe helped develop while he was here."
Junior safety Nathan Hancock said he had been hearing rumors for most of the week about Klanderman leaving, but he didn't want to believe it. Klanderman told the players a couple of days ago.
"It's bittersweet," Hancock said. "The players love him, and he's a big part of why we've had such a great defense. At the same time, I'm happy for him that he gets to move up to a bigger program.
"There are a lot of seniors coming back, and I talked with Coach Klanderman for about an hour after he met with the players, and he said it's going to be hard to screw this up, whoever the coach is. But he's irreplaceable."