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Coach of former NCAA Division II champions ousted

January 15, 1997

FARGO, N.D. (AP) _ Rocky Hager, who led North Dakota State to five North Central Conference football titles and two national championships, was forced out Tuesday after a series of off-the-field problems with Bison players.

Athletic director Robert Entzion said he decided not to renew Hager’s contract, which runs through June, and said he expects the coach to resign in a couple days.

Entzion said no one person can be blamed for the program’s problems. But he said, ``After a series of publicly played-out setbacks, I believe it is time to work on restoring our credibility.

``There comes a time in any sports program where you have to look at the leadership of the program, its ability to deal effectively with image problems, its ability to lead the program in new directions,″ the athletic director said.

Hager held a separate news conference after Entzion’s afternoon announcement.

``This heart will never let NDSU out of it,″ Hager said during his own news conference after his firing was announced. Hager, his head bowed and his voice breaking, refused to answer questions.

In 10 years, Hager’s teams compiled a 95-21-1 record, the winningest record by a North Dakota State coach. His team won two NCAA Division II titles.

Problems with his players off the field led to criticism.

Two Bison players were in court Tuesday afternoon on sexual offense charges as Entzion was making his announcement. Starting running back Reggie Scott and freshman quarterback Lateef Walker were arrested and charged in an sexual assault investigation on campus.

On the field, North Dakota State was 6-4 this season and missed the playoffs for only the second time in the last nine years. Over its history, the school has won eight national football championships and 23 North Central Conference titles.

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