Cain takes job at San Jose State; leaving NDSU with rare coaching opening
FARGO—For the first time since Chris Klieman has been the head coach at North Dakota State, he will have to recruit more than football players. He needs to fill an opening in his coaching staff.
Defensive line coach Jamar Cain accepted a similar position at San Jose State (Calif.), meaning the gang of nine assistant coaches that has been in place since the winter of 2014 will not be fully together for spring football. That kind of run is almost unheard of in Division I football.
"It's a unique thing at any level of college football," Klieman said.
Cain will put Fargo in the rearview mirror with two national championship rings and a dome-full of memories that won't soon be forgotten.
"This one was really tough, this one hurt," he said. "This was real. I knew I wasn't going east, but to go back west. Just being close to home; this was something that was real."
It was real because home is Sacramento, Calif., located about 120 miles from San Jose. It wasn't the first dalliance Cain has had with another position. He said he's turned down a couple opportunities in the Mid-American Conference, with those being FBS jobs and better pay.
San Jose hired Brent Brennan as head coach in December. He was previously an assistant coach at Oregon State and before that an assistant at San Jose State. Cain said he's gotten to know Brennan over the years from camps and recruiting.
When Klieman took over as head coach following the 2013 FCS title, he hired Cain, offensive coordinator Tim Polasek, defensive coordinator Matt Entz, offensive line coach Conor Riley, fullbacks/tight end coach Tyler Roehl, quarterbacks coach Randy Hedberg, defensive line coach Nick Goeser, defensive backs coach Joe Klanderman and wide receivers coach Atif Austin as assistants.
That group formulated two more national titles and a semifinal appearance this season.
"The kids, the kids and the people," Cain said on what he'll remember most about his NDSU stay. "I've been crying too much today. Such good kids and good fans. The people have been so good to me."
Cain came to NDSU after the staff he was on at Wyoming was fired. In essence, it was a trade of sorts since former Bison head coach Craig Bohl and a few assistants went to Wyoming that season.
"When all of that went down at Wyoming, there was a sour taste that I had," Cain said. "The people here were so welcoming. The games, that stuff comes and goes."
As the defensive ends coach, Cain coached players like Kyle Emanuel, who was a fifth-round draft choice of the San Diego Chargers. Cain said Emanuel "challenged me to become a better coach."
"And then watching Greg (Menard) mature, seeing the stuff that Carson (Wentz) did, all of that stuff was amazing," Cain said.
Klieman said it's too soon to think about a replacement. Cain told Klieman he was leaving on Wednesday and he said that wasn't easy.
"We had our days where he got mad at me and I got mad at him, but it's all love," Cain said. "It was tough looking him in the eye and telling him I was leaving."