The Return to National Prominence

“There was a real resolve and determination, especially by our seniors. We had a couple of tough years here. Our guys wanted to make sure we returned Bison football to national prominence. It’s not easy to do. I want to thank them because today we returned Bison football to national prominence.”
Bison Head Coach Craig Bohl

I am a football fanatic. I grew up watching Minnesota Viking football on TV with my Dad, Velva Aggie football in the stands with my classmates, and have always absolutely loved the game.

In the fall of 1981, my appreciation for the game reached an entirely new level when I attended my first North Dakota State Bison football game. It was a night game at Dacotah Field, and it was against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux. I sat in the student section of a sold-out crowd, and I had never experienced anything like it in my life! The atmosphere was electric, and I screamed my heart out during every bone crushing hit as the Bison destroyed the Sioux 31-7. I was hooked!

Over the course of the next 12 years, the Bison beat the Sioux every year in football, and won five NCAA Division II National Championships in the process. The University of North Dakota fielded some outstanding hockey teams during the same time period en route to two NCAA Division I National Championships. In my world North Dakota State was the nationally prominent football team, and North Dakota was the nationally prominent hockey team.

Then, weird things began to happen in football. The Fighting Sioux finally beat the Bison in 1993, and went on to gain national prominence by winning an NCAA Division II Championship in 2001. During that same time, smaller Division II schools began clamoring for parity, and the NCAA responded by reducing the number of football scholarships allowed within Division II, effectively bringing the dominant programs down to the level of the smaller schools. The Bison moved to Division I in 2004 because of this scholarship problem, and although they wanted to continue playing football with their arch rivals, the Sioux refused to meet them on the field. Things were not as they should be for the once prominent Bison football program!

The move to Division I cost the Bison the “privilege” of meeting the University of North Dakota in every sport for a few years, but they wisely moved on anyway. The increase in allowable football scholarships has allowed the Bison to quickly rebuild their program into one of success. Last Saturday, the Bison took the final step, as they returned to national prominence with a 17-6 victory over Sam Houston State in the NCAA Division I FCS National Championship. Welcome back to where you belong, North Dakota State! It’s been 20 years, but my college football world has finally returned to normal: Long live Bison prominence!

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