Bagnell becomes youngest head football coach in NCAA

BISMARCK, ND – A record-setter as a player and coach, University of Mary alumnus Craig Bagnell returns home as the Marauders’ seventh head football coach. A four-year starter at quarterback for the Marauders, Bagnell directed a record-setting offense the last three seasons at Bemidji State University.

The 27-year-old Bagnell, who will be the youngest head coach in NCAA football, has compiled an impressive resume in a short period of time, including nationally ranked offenses and assisting Bemidji State University to one of its best marks during any three-year period. During his run as the Beavers offensive coordinator (2015-17), Bemidji State captured an NSIC North championship, won the Mineral Water Bowl and rolled up 24 wins. In 2016 BSU was ranked fourth offensively in NCAA Division II.

Craig Bagnell shakes the hand of University of Mary Athletic Director Dale Lennon. When introduced by Lennon at the press conference, Bagnell received a standing ovation from over 200 fans and media in attendance at today’s event.

“I was looking for a rising star and found one in Craig Bagnell,” said Marauders Athletic Director Dale Lennon, who, himself, began his head coaching career at Mary. “I’ve been watching him for a couple years as he has excelled as a college coach. He’s ready for the next step from successful coordinator to successful head coach. He brings passion for the game, passion for his athletes, and passion for this university.”

“It is always exciting to see one of our graduates who has left a mark at the University of Mary find success in their chosen path elsewhere, and then look to return home,” said University of Mary President Monsignor James Shea. “Craig Bagnell demonstrated great leadership abilities here as a student-athlete. Also, at a very high level as a coach in the Northern Sun, he’s shown the capacity to teach his players the intricacies of the game on the field, and the virtuous leadership skills needed as his men prepare for life off the field. His ability to both lead and teach, and his intimate knowledge of our campus culture provide a strong foundation for Craig. He will create a strong and successful football program our alumni and community can be proud of and support.”

Craig Bagnell known as the “Blond Bomber” when quarterbacking the Marauders

“I knew early on when he first came to Mary at a young age that he had a rare but special gift—a very, very high football IQ—so we always considered Craig a coach on the field while he quarterbacked our offense,” said Myron Schulz, University of Mary’s all-time winningest coach in football and Bagnell’s former coach. “Craig is truly one of us, a Marauder who is very blue-collar, detail oriented and understands our traditions at the University of Mary. The records he compiled during his playing career and his impressive success as an assistant coach are positive indicators to me that Craig will be a successful head coach. Craig also knows the Northern Sun, spending the last nine seasons scheming, studying and preparing to compete against the league as our quarterback and as a coach at Bemidji State.”

After finishing a record-setting career with the Marauders and graduating from Mary in 2013, Bagnell joined the Bemidji State University football staff as a graduate assistant coaching wide receivers in 2014. After just one season, he was elevated to offensive coordinator, an extraordinary leap seldom seen in college football.

Craig Bagnell coaching his players on the bench at Bemidji State

Despite just a single year of collegiate coaching, the Bemidji State offense flourished under Bagnell’s direction. The Beavers implemented a new offensive system and jumped into the upper half of the conference statistics, finishing seventh in points per game (30.9) and yards per game (411.2), and improved by four wins to a record of 7-4 to claim a share of the 2015 NSIC North Division title. Seven of his players earned all-conference honors, including three first team selections.

In year two as the BSU offensive coordinator, the Beavers improved to 9-3 and won the Mineral Water Bowl. The offense set a school record for scoring (45.6 points/game), yards (524.9 yards/game) and passing yards (293.7 yards/game). The fourth-best offense in NCAA Division II, the Beavers also broke the school record for points in a single game (76). Four of his linemen and the quarterback claimed all-league honors in 2016.

This season Bemidji State finished 8-3 and averaged over 400 yards per game and more than 35 points/game, the third best total in the NSIC. Six offensive players earned all-league honors, including quarterback Jordan Hein for a third straight year.

Marauders Head Coach Craig Bagnell at his press conference

“I’m excited and happy to return to Bismarck and the University of Mary,” said Bagnell. “The opportunity to come back to my alma mater is one I had always hoped for but not something I expected to happen so early in my coaching career. I am eagerly looking forward to this opportunity.

“My expectation is to bring back competitive football to Mary, no matter the age of our team or staff. When we take the field this fall you will see a confident and prepared team.”

“The University of Mary couldn’t have made a better decision on bringing Craig Bagnell back to Bismarck to lead the program,” said Bemidji State University head football coach Brent Bolte. “Craig’s football knowledge and coaching ability go well beyond his years. His best attribute is that he has outstanding character and a commitment to not only to the game but also the staff and, most importantly, his players.

“Craig’s accomplishments while leading our offense are too many to list, but he has helped rewrite our record book on the offensive side of the ball. Without a doubt people in this conference knew they were in for a daunting challenge while facing our offense.”

“My fellow teammates and I are very much excited to have Coach Craig Bagnell back home to lead the University of Mary Marauders back to success on the football field,” said Marauders junior linebacker Chris Kraft of Bismarck. “He brings with him an impressive history of excellence as both an NCAA Division II football player and coach. We perceive him as a man we can trust to lead us both on and off the field and are very hopeful of the time to come.”

A native of Polson, MT, Bagnell was a four-year starter for the Marauders from 2010-13. A three-time team captain, he twice earned All-Northern Sun honors and directed the league’s top offense in 2011. He finished his career as the Marauders all-time leader in touchdown passes (75), yards passing (9,170), passing attempts (1,229) and completions (759).

Bagnell graduated from the University of Mary in 2013 with a Bachelors of Science degree in mathematics.