Rise to Prominence of North Dakota State Bison Football
Where did the NDSU Bison come from and why are they relevant? For one, they are the two-time defending FCS national champions and beat BCS school Kansas State 24-21 on the road to open the 2013 season. The victory improved head coach Craig Bohl’s record to 7-3 over FBS competition and caught the attention of college football experts across the country. Bohl, a former assistant at Nebraska, is now in his 11th season with the Bison and has compiled a 92-32 record.
America was introduced to North Dakota State University last weekend, however success on the gridiron has not been uncommon for the Bison over the decades. Before joining the 1-AA Great West Conference in 2004, the pride of Fargo played in the North Central Conference of Division II. The best years of the program came during the 80s when NDSU won the national championship in 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988, and 1990 while also reaching the title game in 1981 and 1984. North Dakota State has produced NFL veterans such as Phil Hansen, Tyrone Braxton, Lamar Gordon and Joe Mays.
What was the reaction when Fargo learned that College Gameday would be coming to town? The residents were pleasantly surprised that ESPN would choose to travel all the way up to Fargo to cover an FCS school, and despite the initial shock, NDSU has undoubtedly proven that they are worthy of the attention.
The most popular player is arguably quarterback Brock Jensen. The 6’3” senior led the offense down the field at Kansas State to a last-minute victory and has a 32-5 record as a starter over the last three seasons.
North Dakota State plays their home games at the FargoDome, an indoor stadium that opened in 1992 and seats 19,000. Many NDSU fans were upset when they learned that ESPN would not broadcast from the FargoDome, but ten minutes away in downtown Fargo. The decision surprisingly polarized the Bison faithful, if only because they have an intense devotion to their favorite football squad.
I was born and raised in Barnesville, Minnesota and attended college in Moorhead, Minnesota just across the state line from Fargo, North Dakota. In the late 80s, my father would take me to the old Dacotah Field at NDSU and we were happy to watch a talented football despite the bitter cold. The weather became a non-factor with the opening of the FargoDome, which has made the experience more comfortable for fans, however some long for days of old.
GameDay Crowd "Fargo Friendly" and "Minnesota Nice"
The weather was beautiful on Saturday, fortunately, and the whole experience was unforgettable for the locals. Local businesses on Broadway offered early morning deals and patrons could walk in and out without much difficulty. Once the show began and space became tight, the crowd retained the “Fargo Friendly” vibe aka “Minnesota Nice.” There are 20,000 college students in the Fargo-Moorhead area, and despite the large crowd, there were little, if any legal problems.
North Dakota State University is a program on the rise, and Craig Bohl continues to move it in the right direction. The exposure on College Gameday was important not only for recruiting, but a chance to display a wonderful city that continues to grow in population and culture. Despite what you may hear from outsiders about the cold winters, the weather is only one aspect of what makes the community unique. The residents of Fargo love their city, appreciate the exposure and most certainly made their latest guest, ESPN, feel welcome.
Don’t be surprised to hear more about North Dakota State Bison football, especially if they win a third consecutive national championship.