Photos by Hillary Ehlen
With 10 moves, Courtney Messingham has made stops all across the country coaching football, but one thing has remained constant: family. The veteran coach of 27 years brings his expertise and experience to North Dakota State after being named offensive coordinator in February 2017.
Messingham and his wife, Carol, are now at their third school in three years. But the two have the moving process down to a science and are getting settled into their new home in Fargo.
PAST COACHING STOPS
2017-Present – NDSU, Offensive Coordinator
2016 – Montana State, Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach
2014-15 – Indiana University, Offensive and Special Teams Quality Control
2009-13 – Iowa State, Tight Ends/Wide Receivers/Offensive Coordinator
1999-2002, ‘08 – Missouri State, Position Coach
2005-07 – Southern Mississippi, Running Backs/Wide Receivers
2003-04 – Upper Iowa, Head Coach
1995-98 – Truman State
1993-94 – Iowa Lakes CC
1990-92 – St. Ambrose, Graduate Assistant
MAKING THE MOVE
There’s always some uncertainty when it comes to being a college football coach. The turnover rate is high for assistants, whether it’s because there’s a new face as the head coach, a new direction for the program or a better opportunity presents itself. Courtney Messingham is at his 10th school since beginning his career as a graduate assistant at St. Ambrose (Iowa) in 1990. But he’s treating his latest stop as NDSU’s offensive coordinator like all the past ones.
“I truly always try to go into it as it’s the last place I end up,” he said.
Messingham’s journey as a coach is represented best in the basement of his West Fargo home. Helmets and memorabilia from his past schools are on display. And on one wall are several pieces of string art his daughter, Taylor, made. Each one is in the shape of the states the family has lived in with the colors of the strings matching the team Courtney coached.
By his side has been his wife, Carol, who he married in 1993. Taylor, who recently graduated from Southern Mississippi and is working in St. Louis, is their only kid.
“We’ve moved a bunch of times over the years and it’s never easy,” Courtney said. “But you know it’s part of it and you go at it that way with the mindset that it’s part of the business we decided to get into.”
“Everywhere I’ve gone, you go there for the long haul and you try to enjoy it,” he added. “You get to know the people in the community and the players. And I’ve been fortunate because I’ve been at places I’ve enjoyed.”
The Messinghams moved to Fargo after Courtney was the offensive coordinator at Montana State in 2016. The year before, he was coaching at Indiana University for two seasons. Packing up and moving is something the family is used to. But Carol said they treat it like an adventure and enjoy meeting new people.
“Coach (Chris) Klieman is really good at understanding family.” – Courtney Messingham
“Our first moves, we packed ourselves and did the U-Haul thing,” she said. “Now it’s just figuring out timing and calling the right people and getting it scheduled. We still pack up some of our own stuff, but you get a little less sentimental every time. When we left Ames, Iowa, we downsized at that point. We thought, ‘Taylor is going to school and we don’t need a bigger house.’ So, at the last couple of stops, it’s not as easy to have players and coaches over.”
Carol works from home as an accountant for a company in Springfield, Missouri. She got the job when Courtney coached at Missouri State and the company allowed her to move and continue to work remotely. That has helped make moving smoother throughout the years.
What has made this particular move smooth for Courtney is his familiarity with the NDSU staff. He was teammates with Bison head coach Chris Klieman at Northern Iowa and has also known defensive coordinator Matt Entz for a long time. All three are Waterloo, Iowa, natives. Courtney was able to click with the staff right away as he got situated in Fargo. He spent a short time in the dorms before finding an apartment with Carol and then buying a house.
“With (first-year defensive ends coach) Buddha Williams and I, we’ve both had strong ties to people who either knew the staff well or in my case, knowing coach Klieman and coach Entz,” Courtney said. “It was really a comfortable and easy transition for us. And part of that goes to the quality of the people they all are but it also goes back to having good familiarity with their background.”
FAMILY AND FOOTBALL
Like Courtney, a lot of the coaches have bought homes in Fargo and are married with kids. Days are long during the season. The coaches usually roll into the offices by 6 a.m. and are home by 8-9 p.m. Balancing work and family can get challenging.
“Coach Klieman is really good at understanding family,” Courtney said. “He tries to set our schedules so our families know when we’re going to be home and in the office. He does a good job of trying to get us there in the morning so most of the position coaches are home by 8 p.m. For me, sometimes I’m a little bit later since we don’t have kids anymore here and as a coordinator, I like to get some things done when the other coaches aren’t around.”
“(Fargo) was bigger than I expected it to be. We’ve had a lot of fun trying new restaurants.” – Carol Messingham
It’s the way of life Courtney and Carol know. Courtney said it’s been big having Carol know what the coaching lifestyle is like. The two began dating in college and during his early start in coaching. They’ve called a lot of places home. And both are happy to now call Fargo home.
“It’s very friendly,” Carol said. “Everyone is really welcoming. I guess (Fargo) was bigger than I expected it to be. We’ve had a lot of fun trying new restaurants.”
“The biggest thing is how much there is here,” Courtney added. “I don’t think the average person knows the entire (Red River) valley is around 250,000 people. You feel it’s supposedly a small community, but to me, it’s not. It’s got a little bit of everything. It’s a large enough community where you don’t feel everyone knows you, but it’s a small enough community where there’s great support for Bison athletics.”