As a kid growing up in northeast South Dakota, I was raised firmly in the middle of the North Central Conference or as we called it, the toughest Division II conference in the country. To the south was South Dakota State University, Augustana and University of South Dakota, and to the north was the University of North Dakota and NDSU. Being a South Dakota kid, my allegiance was to my home state and even though SDSU was closer, I fell in love with USD.
My first memory of Bison football was back in 1986, when the announcer passionately said after the Division II playoff semifinal game, “Bring on the Bison!” The following game was my first real introduction to who this juggernaut of a football program was and would still be to this day. My Coyotes fell in the National Championship 27-7. It was never close, and the programs haven’t been close since.
The Bison don’t just have USD’s number, they are dominant against everybody. In the past 52 seasons, the Bison have come put above .500 in 49 of them. They have 11 National Championships and the last three consecutive FCS titles. And the Bison don’t show any signs of slowing down and are the team to beat in the Football Championship Subdivision. Let me clarify that. They are not just the best team in the state, region or conference; they are the premier program in the FCS.
What makes the Bison so dominant? It’s as simple as this: winning breeds winning.
Since that first taste of the Bison dominance, every year they simply reload and never rebuild. The worst season they’ve had in recent memory was during transition from Division II to the FCS Division. Even when they had they went 3-9 in 2009, it was short lived. Prior to being eligible to participate in the FCS playoffs, during the five-year transition phase, the Bison managed to have two one-loss seasons. One season ended as the ranked team in the FCS and a win over the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in 2007.
The Bison have a winning program that brings better recruits to campus. The recruits fall in love with the program, the atmosphere and the fans. The program has been so successful that ESPN GameDay has not once, but twice come to downtown Fargo to broadcast their show. The success has even spilled over into other programs. The men’s basketball team made its second appearance in the NCAA tournament, which included an opening round upset win over Oklahoma.
The area has received publicity from the Bison football team, basketball team and even indirectly from FX’s new series “Fargo.” Fargo will even be hosting the NCAA Regional hockey playoffs this spring at Scheels Arena. All positive signs that are pointing in Fargo’s direction.
I’ve read in the past where people joke: “Fargo is a real place?”
Yes, it is a very real place with real people with a very real football program. Just ask a number of the region’s FBS schools. Some student athletes may not want to venture to a small town in the chilly upper Midwest, but the fact is, Fargo isn’t that small and it’s an oasis on the prairie.
This community is growing exponentially with new neighborhoods popping up almost overnight and the most popular and trendy shops and restaurants not far behind. Once student athletes come to Fargo, they love it and are loved by the fans, which creates a perfect match that continues to grow this programs dominance. Some players simply come to the program as walk-ons because they want to be part of this special program. They spend seasons practicing, imitating the current starters’ every move, in hopes of duplicating their success once their number is called.
To get to a point where players are willing to wait multiple seasons to get their chance shows how special this program has become and how the depth of this team continues to grow.