On Saturday afternoon in Frisco, Texas, North Dakota State players sprinted over to their band and jumped into the stands in celebration as the clock hit triple zeros in the FCS title game. To the untrained eye, it seemed as though the Bison were getting their first taste of victory on the big stage and soaking every minute of it in. In reality, though, it was quite the opposite. This was their ninth trophy in the last 11 years. Most guys on that team had won it before in some capacity. This was nothing new, but still just as sweet. We may never see anything like it again in sports.
Head coach Matt Entz, now with his second championship, is continuing the long-standing tradition of success in Fargo and doing it well. Montana State, with a former NDSU coach of their own calling the shots, try as they might were no match for the Bison. The Bobcats were simply the latest victim in a long line of North Dakota State championship runs, and they likely won’t be the last.
It was clear from the start that MSU was in trouble. After losing freshman quarterback Tommy Mellott to an ankle injury on the opening drive, the ‘Cats were never the same. Backup Tucker Rovig came in and did all he could but the Bison and their smothering run game were too much.
North Dakota State dominated the Bobcats in rushing yardage, 380 to 156. Fullback Hunter Luepke was a wrecking ball with three touchdowns. Kobe Johnson hit the 100-yard mark. All in all, it was a well-oiled machine that did exactly what NDSU teams past have done to claim the crown.
In the context of FCS football as whole, what the Bison are doing is unprecedented.
A History of Champions
Since 2011, NDSU has claimed nine national titles and they can all be seen on the impressive list below. Even more impressive than the sheer number, however, is the wide array of scores. It doesn’t matter if it’s by 20 or by one, the Bison always seem to find a way.
Some like to compare NDSU to other famous sports dynasties, but it really can’t be done. Alabama? They’ve lost the championship before and don’t always make it (despite what many fans might think). The Bison are a perfect 9-0 in the title game and have only lost one home playoff game since moving up to the FCS. They have an all time win percentage of 93.2% in the FCS playoffs. No one comes close.
If you need any further proof of the tremendous success over in Fargo look to the the FBS and the NFL. Carson Wentz and Trey Lance are both products of the Bison system and both have won FCS championships of their own. Former head coach Chris Kileman (winner of four titles with NDSU) is now the head man at Kansas State and Craig Bohl (a three-time champion) is running the show at Wyoming. Success breeds success and it’s ever-so prevalent in North Dakota.
Through three head coaches and numerous players, things stay relatively the same year in and year out. Recruiting is easy as ever as kids are lining up around the block for a chance to play for the Bison. Why wouldn’t they? A trip the playoffs is all but guaranteed at the start of each year and the chance to play for a national title is better than anywhere. The incredible game day atmosphere in Fargo is just a cherry on top. That domino effect has been in place since the early 2010s.
Frisco, as they say, is really a Bison town and its no joke. Bars have NDSU gear hanging from their walls and come January every year, there is a literal migration of fans from North Dakota that make the trek down to watch their team compete for another championship. Many Bison fans, in fact, actually purchase their tickets for the game at the start of the year with the anticipation that they’ll be in it. It’s not arrogance, it’s smart.
Is the FBS Calling?
Should the Bison move up? The argument, at least in terms of on-field success, can be made. Georgia Southern won six D1-AA (FCS-equivalent) championships back in the day and now they’re in the Sun Belt along with Appalachian State who won three in a row fron 2005 to 2007. Even Sam Houston and James Madison are bidding the FCS adieu with a fraction of the titles. So, why doesn’t NDSU do the same?
Geography makes it tough. Realistically the only two conferences that could make a move for the program currently are the Mountain West and maybe the MAC. The Pac-12 is set and, as good as NDSU is, they likely wouldn’t compete with the likes of Oregon for a long while. While they could see more immediate success in the MW or the MAC, both those leagues are sitting in a good spot member-wise as it stands now.
And if you’re North Dakota State, why would you move until your hand is forced? Yes, a financial benefit would certainly exist but the titles are flowing in like never before. The Missouri Valley practically belongs to NDSU. They are self-feeding juggernaut with everything going their way. Why change that for the opportunity to compete for mid-tier bowl game each season?
So as Entz and his team take home the trophy this year it’s important to remember that this is commonplace now. It’s expected. FCS fans may not like it, but NDSU isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Next year will present new challengers but the Bison still rule the roost and, in some form or another, teams will at some point have to go through Fargo to get to the promised land.
They’ll lose talent to the draft but there will be another slew of recruits to take their place. Entz may be poached by the FBS soon but they’ll likely promote from within again to ensure the same standard is being met. There’s no denying it, the program is the one true blueprint for building a dynasty. You can’t help but tip your cap.