Western Illinois tabs Nielson as head football coach

Bob Nielson was a national championship-winning coach at Minnesota Duluth.

Western Illinois believes Nielson can help take its football program to a higher level as well.

The Missouri Valley Football Conference university named Nielson as its new head coach on Wednesday.

He replaces Mark Hendrickson, who was fired last month after a 3-8 season.

In 10 seasons at Minnesota Duluth, the 53-year-old Nielson's squads posted a 100-26 record, won two NCAA II championships (2008 and 2010), five Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference titles and made the playoffs six times. His teams had three perfect 11-0 regular seasons.

Nielson prebiously was the head coach at three Division III colleges, Ripon (Wisc.), his alma mater Wartburg (Iowa) and Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He has a 170-59-1 career record.

Nielson is charged with lifting a Western Illinois program that most recently made the FCS playoffs in 2010, but is 5-17 over the last two seasons, including a 2-14 record in the Missouri Valley Conference.