K-State football coach Chris Klieman on Big 12 title defense

Kansas State Wildcats football coach Chris Klieman swings through the Kansas City subway on Wednesday night, meeting the KC Catbackers at Shawnee Mission Park.


Chris Klieman was hired as a Kansas State football coach largely on his ability to win championships. In North Dakota State, his teams have won four NCAA football championship subdivision titles in five seasons.

This means Klieman has also had success coaching teams coming out of trophy seasons. This is where the Wildcats, defending Big 12 champions, meet in 2023.

“You better stay humble and you better stay hungry or you can get knocked out,” Klieman said Wednesday night during a KC Catbackers appearance at Shawnee Mission Park. “What you did last year may pale in comparison to what you can do this year.”

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By winning the fourth league title in program history, the 2022 Kansas State became an eternal team in the hearts of fans. And the Wildcats pulled it off with spectacular flair.

They finished behind undefeated TCU in the final Big 12 standings, setting up a rematch with the Horned Frogs in the conference championship game. K-State won it with a goal line stand and a field goal in overtime.

“What we did was magic last year.” said Klieman. “But on June 1, when all our kids report back and we start our first training for the summer of 2023, it’s a new wave. It’s a new cycle, it’s a new era.

The Wildcats Big 12 championship rings will be presented to players following the team’s opening practice.

“We’re going to make it a great show,” Klieman said.

Klieman caused a stir himself in the offseason when he agreed to a new eight-year contract worth $44 million. But it was what happened before the announcement of his contract that particularly pleased him.

“Before signing my contract, we increased the salaries of the assistants,” Klieman said. “I wanted to make sure those guys got a raise because they’re the reason we’re successful.”

Athletic director Gene Taylor brought Klieman to Kansas State after working together at North Dakota State. It was Taylor who elevated Klieman to head coaching there before Taylor became associate athletic director at Iowa.

“Grateful for Gene Taylor,” Klieman said. ” He is my boss ; he is a good friend of mine. He may not say it, but he took the risk that I came from the FCS. We had some confirmation last fall that what we’re doing is the right way.

The prospects for continued success look promising. Quarterback Will Howard returns, along with all of the Wildcats starters across the offensive line. Left guard Cooper Beebe, last year’s Big 12 offensive lineman of the year and Piper High graduate, was a projected NFL draft pick when he decided to return.

The Wildcats had four players selected in this year’s NFL Draft, led by Felix Anudike-Uzomah of Lee’s Summit, who was selected in the first round by his hometown Chiefs. Also in Kansas City is former Wildcats cornerback Ekow Boye-Doe, who signed a free agent contract.

But the meaning is that Kansas State’s roster remains good enough to make another run this season. It will be a weird one in the Big 12, which is expanding to 14 teams with the addition of four newcomer schools. The Wildcats will meet half of that this fall, taking on Central Florida and Houston but missing Oklahoma and West Virginia.

They will do it as Big 12 champions, and the idea is to build on that title.

“I don’t want to have a big team,” Klieman said. “I want to have a good program.”

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