FARGO — Old-timers, present company included, will remember that North Dakota State athletics and WDAY were once synonymous. For 43 of 46 seasons from 1961 to 2006, WDAY was the broadcast home for Bison football and basketball.
"Broadcast" in those days meant mostly radio, with a couple of TV games per year tossed in beginning in the 1980s.
Boyd Christenson. Earl Williams. Ed Schultz. Scott Miller. All voices that called Bison sports on the radio and, in Schultz's case, on WDAY-TV in the '80s and '90s.
Some old-timers, present company included, would say WDAY helped build Bison athletics into what it is today.
They would say the football games being carried by another local station never felt quite right, like a lower-grade impostor had jumped onto the coattails of what WDAY built and didn't quite have the heft to move it forward.
Then again, there might be some bias. WDAY-TV is owned by Forum Communications Co., which owns InForum and The Forum.
The Forum, by the way, also helped build NDSU athletics into what it is today — although that was never the intent of Eugene Fitzgerald, Ed Kolpack and the other long-ago sports editors and reporters who decided to treat the small-city agricultural college's football team like a Division I program long before it was Division I.
The Bison won a lot, readers were interested and so Fitz and Kolpack gave the customers what they wanted. What resulted was newspaper coverage befitting a much larger program. That continues today, with Ed's son Jeff leading the beat reporting charge for the past 26 years.
The Forum and InForum have covered all 18 national championship games in which the Bison football team has played. A Kolpack in one form or another — Ed, Jeff or older son Dave — has covered every Bison title game.
We take this trip down memory lane because of the news today that Forum Communications, in the form of WDAY-TV, has been awarded the television rights to carry Bison athletics for the next three years, with options for two more.
Football games will be on Channel 6 in Fargo and statewide on our Forum Communications-owned affiliates WDAZ, KBMY and KMCY. The majority of basketball and Olympic sports will be aired statewide on WDAY Xtra, although it's likely important basketball games will be moved to the main stations.
Things are back as they should be. The Bison are back with WDAY.
If this sounds like cheerleading for the company that allows me office space and the freedom to write what's on my mind, so be it. I've seen the commitment Forum Communications has to covering NDSU athletics on the television, digital and print side, even when there was no obligation or incentive to do so — and even when those in power at NDSU tried to make it more difficult for us to do our jobs — and I'm proud of the work our company has done.
Forum Communications has remained the No. 1 spot to get information on Bison athletics, especially football, even when the contracts to broadcast games went elsewhere. That speaks to the commitment of ownership, management and staff to dedicate the money and manpower to cover stories our readers and viewers want.
Dom Izzo has crushed NDSU coverage on the TV and radio side. The Forum and InForum have led the way on the print and digital side with Jeff Kolpack, Eric Peterson, Kevin Schnepf, Dave Samson, Mike Vosburg, myself and others. Game coverage, feature stories, breaking news, opinion. Video. Audio. Photographs. Podcasts. Blogs.
We've had it all and no other media entity in Fargo-Moorhead has been close, even those with the broadcast contracts.
Now WDAY will carry the contests on television, too. Plus it will have the Bison spring football game, postseason specials for football and men's and women's basketball, and a national signing day special for football.
Knowing Izzo's drive and creativity, the support he has from WDAY management and the resources of Forum Communications, it's a good bet there'll be other fun stuff coming, too.
There is a legacy at play here.
WDAY and Forum Communications Co. were innovators with NDSU broadcasting from 1961 to 2006. WDAY, with Schultz leading the way, brought Bison football to statewide television in the 1980s by carrying the annual rivalry game with the University of North Dakota and some Division II playoff games. Izzo has continued that tradition even as the broadcast contracts went elsewhere.
With Forum Communications' statewide TV network, the Xtra network and more than 20 digital and print platforms in North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota, the opportunity to innovate is there once again. In this digital day and age, the possibilities are limitless.
If for no other reason — even though there are many other reasons — the Bison's TV rights are back where they belong.