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Former UMD coordinator fitting in nicely at Southern Illinois

Former Minnesota Duluth offensive coordinator Phil Longo hasn't had much time to slow down since leaving UMD for Southern Illinois two weeks ago. After a couple of days to get settled in Carbondale, Ill., Longo was off on the recruiting trail as ...

Former Minnesota Duluth offensive coordinator Phil Longo hasn't had much time to slow down since leaving UMD for Southern Illinois two weeks ago.

After a couple of days to get settled in Carbondale, Ill., Longo was off on the recruiting trail as the Salukis are in the frenzied final days before National Signing Day on Wednesday. To top it off, Longo, who was originally hired as Southern Illinois' wide receivers coach, was named offensive coordinator last week after members of the coaching staff asked if he was interested in the position.

Longo is part of a staff that includes five head coaches. Former North Dakota coach Dale Lennon was hired as Salukis head coach on Dec. 28. Less than a week later, Minnesota Duluth coach Bubba Schweigert joined hisformer North Dakota colleague to take Southern Illinois' defensive coordinator position. Longo soon followed suit.

"Coach Lennon wasn't here for the entire recruiting season, so we have a much shorter time to sign our kids than we normally would have," Longo said Wednesday from the recruiting trail in Arizona. "I've pretty much been recruiting since I got there. That is our only priority right now."

Longo also has recruited in his home state of New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky.

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He came to UMD after two seasons as head coach at La Salle University and was UMD's offensive coordinator for two seasons, continuing the Bulldogs' recent trend of pass-happy spread offenses. Fond of writing, he helped promote the Bulldogs through his Web site, coachlongo football.com.

Longo developed a strong friendship with Schweigert, something that factored heavily in his decision to follow him to Southern Illinois.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for coach Lennon, and I think the world of Bubba ..." Longo said. "I absolutely loved it at UMD, and this was no slight to anybody there, because I still love the place and will always speak very highly of it.

"The motivations for me was simply one thing: Working with Dale Lennon and Bubba Schweigert. End of story."

* Schweigert said his decision to leave UMD wasn't about money, and his new salary reflects that. Schweigert will make a base salary of $80,000 for Southern Illinois, slightly more than the $79,500 he made last fall at UMD. Longo will make $63,000, up from $46,250.

* Newly appointed UMD football coach Bob Nielson plans on filling the Bulldogs' offensive coordinator opening as soon as possible butis currently focused on recruiting.

* Of the nine schools that played football in the North Central Conference last fall, five will have new head coaches next year: UMD, North Dakota, Minnesota State-Mankato, Central Washington and St. Cloud State (pending a pair of grievances filed by coach Randy Hedberg).

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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