Vlcko has experience rebuilding programs

Aaron Vlcko successfully rebuilt Bemidji State from the bottom up in his first stint in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. That ended 10 years ago.

Since then, he’s also helped right the ship at Truman State.

One of three finalists for Minot State’s head football coaching vacancy, Vlcko believes he can do the same for a Beavers program that went 5-17 the past two seasons. But he’s only rebuilt as an assistant, never from the helm.

“In my career, fortunately I’ve been able to be part of a staff that’s built several different programs from this level to where we’re able to win some football games and be very competitive,” Vlcko said Saturday afternoon during the community forum portion of his on-campus interview. “Because of that, I feel comfortable that the opportunity to serve as head coach here is something that I’m prepared to do.”

Vlcko, currently the offensive coordinator at Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point, has a career record of 118-121, with all but 11 games – a 2-9 record as Truman State’s interim head coach in 2009 – coming as an assistant.

At Bemidji State, Vlcko served as offensive coordinator for the final seven of his eight years there. From 1996-2003, he helped the NSIC school turn around its struggling program. After a 3-7 campaign in 1995, BSU went 47-38 over the next eight, recording winning seasons in each of the last six.

After a pit stop from 2003-04 at his alma mater, Division III Coe College, Vlcko spent five years at Truman State. The Bulldogs notched winning records in 2006 and 2007, and did so with the odds against them, Vlcko said. Truman State went 2-9 in 2004, the year before Vlcko’s arrival. His staff’s quick turnaround gives him belief he can win at MSU right away.

“I think what separates me from a lot of other coaches in looking at this opportunity is the programs I’ve been able to be a part of at the Division II level weren’t programs that potentially had all the resources or were at the top of the resource list in the conference they competed in,” he said.

“I know up here at Minot State, we’ve had some huge strides in our transition (to Division II) and there’s still some positive things happening. I think my success in Division II football, in particular, has been at programs that potentially had a ways to go, but we found ways to still win football games.”

In 2013, UW-Stevens Point went 5-5 and averaged 24.7 points per game with the offense under his direction. He said his team’s spread offense is more of a product of personnel than personal preference. He aims for a 50-50 run-pass balance in his schemes.

“We do need to become a balanced system,” he said. “We need to be able to run the football to win a national championship, and that will ultimately be the goal here at Minot State University is to compete at that type of level.”

Should he be selected as head coach, Vlcko plans to coach the offense and hire a defensive coordinator. He also said he would analyze the current staff to determine if any fit in on his own staff.

As for recruiting, he hopes to especially focus on North Dakota, while retaining areas like California and Florida that MSU has had success finding players. He boasted the relationships he’s built in Arizona, as well.

But for now, he simply hopes to be selected as MSU’s 20th head football coach in school history.

“I know we’re in the Magic City,” Vlcko said. “Boy, I really look forward to taking on the challenge of bringing some magic to Minot State football.”

Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.