MANHATTAN, Kan. – After leading Kansas State to its third Big 12 title with a 31-28 overtime victory over No. 3 TCU in the 2022 Big 12 Championship, fourth-year head coach Chris Klieman has been named one of five finalists for the Bobby Dodd Trophy as the nation’s top head coach, officials from the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation and Peach Bowl announced Friday.
Klieman is joined on the list by fellow conference champion head coaches Willie Fritz (Tulane), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Kirby Smart (Georgia) and Kyle Whittingham (Utah). Klieman is K-State’s first finalist for the award since Bill Snyder won it in 2012.
“These five coaches have found a way to set themselves apart by guiding their programs to historic seasons during another exhilarating year of college football,” said Jim Terry, chairman of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation. “Each of these men have left a significant mark on their respective universities, football programs and players, both on and off the gridiron, and truly embody all that this award stands for.”
Klieman, who holds a 30-19 record in four years in Manhattan, led the Wildcats to their first Big 12 title since 2012 and the 11th double-digit win campaign in school history. K-State will be in search of a school-record tying 11th win in the Sugar Bowl, a feat that been accomplished on seven occasions, most recently in 2012.
In addition to the 30 overall wins, Klieman has led the Wildcats to three victories over Oklahoma – ranked No. 6 in 2022, No. 5 in 2019 and No. 3 in 2020 – kept the Governor’s Cup trophy in Manhattan with four wins over in-state rival KU and has collected 20 Big 12 Conference wins.
Thanks to his 30 wins in Manhattan, Klieman holds a career head coaching record of 102-32 as his 76.2% winning percentage ranks fourth among current FBS coaches that have led programs for at least nine seasons, trailing only Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Alabama’s Nick Saban and James Madison’s Curt Cignetti.
The 2022 season was one of the ages as the Cats opened the year 2-1 in non-conference play, defeating regional rival Missouri while dropping a close 17-10 contest to Tulane, who went on to finish the season ranked 16th nationally and earned a berth in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Road wins at No. 6 Oklahoma and Iowa State jump-started Big 12 play, and following losses to ranked foes TCU and Texas, the Wildcats closed out the conference season with three-straight wins (and four of the last five) to earn a berth in the league title game and rematch with the No. 3 Horned Frogs. The overtime win against TCU propelled the Wildcats to the Allstate Sugar Bowl, their first New Year’s Six bowl since playing in the 2013 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Klieman has coached running back Deuce Vaughn to consecutive Consensus All-America campaigns, as Vaughn is just the second player in school history to earn the distinction twice (Chris Canty – 1995 and 1996). Klieman also saw defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah be named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2022, one of four All-Big 12 First Team selections.
A native of Waterloo, Iowa, Klieman came to K-State after capping his five-year stint as head coach at North Dakota State by winning his fourth national championship in 2018. He tied Jim Tressel (Youngstown State) for the most FCS National Championships as a head coach, while he was a part of seven national championships at NDSU, which was the most in FCS history at the time of his departure.
Klieman guided the 2018 Bison to a perfect 15-0 record, just the fifth team in FCS history to go undefeated and untied on the way to a national championship. North Dakota State also claimed that feat in 2013 when Klieman as the defensive coordinator.
Kansas State, which finished ninth in the final College Football Playoff Top 25, will take on fifth-ranked Alabama in the 89th annual Allstate Sugar Bowl inside Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The game will take place at 11 a.m., on Saturday, December 31, and be shown on ESPN.