Former Bison head football coach Babich 'enjoying every minute' of trip back to Fargo
FARGO — The last time former North Dakota State head coach Bob Babich was in Fargo, he estimated, was around 15 years ago.
Babich was back in the Fargodome on Friday, April 12, as he was slated to be the keynote speaker for NDSU's annual football coaches clinic. While the event was canceled due to inclement weather, the Buffalo Bills linebackers coach still made his way to Fargo for a homecoming of sorts.
"A lot of things have changed," Babich said. "But it changed for the better. The facilities here are fantastic. ... To walk into the office there and see all the national championship trophies, it's awesome."
Babich was referring to the seven NCAA Division I FCS national championship trophies the Bison have won over the past eight seasons. They are displayed in the reception area of the football offices in the Fargodome.
Babich coached the Bison from 1997-2002 and posted a 46-22 record with two Division II playoff appearances. He's been an NFL assistant coach since he left NDSU with the latest stop being Buffalo.
Babich said it was good to reconnect in person with the Bison program, spending time with the current staff, including head coach Matt Entz.
"I'm enjoying every minute of it," Babich said. "To see coach Entz and the staff that he's put together and the facilities that the Bison have has been fantastic. ... I've looked forward to it since I found out I was coming here."
Babich has been the Bills linebackers coach since 2017 and his son Bobby Babich is a safeties coach on the Buffalo staff. Bobby played defensive back for the Bison from 2002-2005, including one season with his dad as head coach.
Bob said being on the same coaching staff with Bobby is reminiscent of when Bob coached his son at NDSU.
"To be able to see him every day, was something that was special because in the coaching profession you're away from your family a lot," Bob said. "But now, coaching together, once again seeing him every day, seeing the growth that he's made as a coach and being proud of him, it's just been fantastic."
This past August, Bob was the presenter for former Chicago Bears great Brian Urlacher on his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Bob was an assistant coach on the Bears staff from 2004-2012.
Bob said he was humbled that Urlacher chose him to be his Hall of Fame presenter.
"It was an unbelievable day for me. It was something I never expected to happen," Bob said. "I feel very fortunate to be able to do something like that. It was a very special day for a very special guy. ... When (Urlacher) asked me, it floored me."
Bob said returning to Fargo was a trip down memory lane. One of the players Babich said he reconnected with was former Bison quarterback Kevin Feeney, now the head football coach at Moorhead High School. Feeney played for the Bison from 1995-1998. Bob was Feeney's head coach at NDSU for two seasons.
"There's a lot of good memories from this place," Bob said.
In 2000, the Bison finished with a 12-2 record and advanced to the Division II semifinals. That was NDSU's most successful season under Babich. The Bison finished 2-8 overall in 2002, his final season as the program's head coach.
"You always want to win more games, but it was a great six years," Bob said. "I enjoyed the journey."
Babich said he still follows the Bison football program when possible, whether it's watching a game on television or tracking scores. He added he isn't surprised the program continues to produce players who make NFL rosters.
The most notable recent example is former Bison quarterback Carson Wentz, who was selected No. 2 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2016 NFL Draft.
"I always felt like NDSU had the ability to recruit quality athletes that have great football character," Bob said. "That's a big reason why these Bison get drafted."