FARGO — As fast and furious as North Dakota State played in the NCAA Division I FCS national title win over James Madison on Saturday, its trip back to Fargo after the game was slow and monotonous.
Mechanical issues with the NCAA-sponsored Sun Country charter flight didn’t leave Dallas Love Field Airport until 1:30 Sunday morning and didn’t get back to Hector International Airport until 3:30 a.m., putting a damper on NDSU’s 28-20 victory celebration at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen said “a wind speed indicator” in the cockpit went off about three-quarters into takeoff and the flight was aborted. The plane returned to a holding area at the airport where it was determined fixing the plane would not happen anytime soon.
At that point, Shorts Travel Management, the contracted travel agent for the NCAA, began looking for other options, Larsen said.
“Sun Country was good, it was out of their hands a little bit,” Larsen said. “They brought us food and drinks and managed the situation the best they could.”
Larsen said Shorts Travel determined the best course of action was to have the charter that took James Madison back to Harrisonburg, Va., return to Dallas and take NDSU back to Fargo. The JMU plane left right before NDSU was scheduled to depart.
“Everybody wanted to get home,” Larsen said. “It ended up being a long time. You want to get moving and early on we did not have any information but once Sun Country identified the problem they did everything they could to rectify it. The fact we won lightened the mood versus if we hadn’t. It was unfortunate but sometimes those things happen.”
For Larsen, in his sixth year as the NDSU athletic director, it was the fifth FCS national title under his watch. This one was different in that it was done with first-year head coach Matt Entz, who Larsen hired after Chris Klieman left for Kansas State.
“He understood the magnitude of this position and what it means after having been here five years,” said Larsen, referring to Entz being the Bison defensive coordinator before taking the top job. “He did a great job of putting together a staff that was the right fit at the right time at NDSU.”
At 16-0, only the second time in college football history a team has won that many games joining the 1894 Yale team, it all came together.
What the Bison couldn’t control on Saturday was their flight back.
“Shorts Travel did the best remedy they could,” Larsen said. “I was pleased with their efforts.”