FARGO — The row of tall trees that divided the North Dakota State football practice fields from 15th Avenue North were noticeably gone on Monday. The one artificial turf field was removed and construction equipment and mounds of dirt dominated the landscape.
Bison head coach Matt Entz had a smile earlier in the morning when he saw the destruction. In its place will be a new indoor football facility that when finished with all phases will probably cost around $35 to $40 million, with all funds privately raised. Construction of the first phase, the main structure, is expected to take 12-13 months.
“It’s an exciting day for football and NDSU athletics,” Entz said.
With their three practice fields torn up, NDSU will use either the practice soccer field, the soccer game surface at Dacotah Field or the Fargodome for practice.
“Wherever green space is available,” Entz said.
Although last Saturday wasn’t exciting per se for fans, the 64-0 win over FCS non-scholarship Valparaiso gave Entz other reasons to smile besides the infrastructure of his program. Most notably: there wasn’t much of a dropoff with the backups in the game compared to the starters.
The defense kept the shutout, something Entz said was important to the team. The offense had a pair of double-digit play drives. In all, the Bison played 79 players.
“That’s critical to our program where we rely on younger players until they can develop and become starters,” Entz said. “It was a great experience for us.”
The first road experience comes Saturday when the Bison play their second Colonial Athletic Association team in three weeks. The opener was a 28-6 win over the University of Albany at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
The first road test comes at Towson University (Md.), the second time in three years NDSU will venture to the East Coast to play a CAA program. The Bison stopped Delaware 47-22 in 2019. It will be the third meeting between the programs with the other two being in postseason: a 24-17 Bison win in the 1983 Division II quarterfinals in Fargo and a 35-7 win in the 2013 FCS national title game in Frisco, Texas.
“It’s the home opener for them, I anticipate a big crowd,” Entz said. “It will be a good challenge for us and I’m sure they’ll be hungry to play the Bison.”
It will be the first road game since ‘19 where attendance won’t be restricted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tigers averaged almost 6,500 fans two years ago in six home games at 11,192-seat Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Bison 93% Tigers 7%
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“It will be fun, it’s what college football is supposed to be like,” Entz said. “It’s the thing that we missed in the spring, having big crowds even at the opponent's stadiums.”
NDSU remained No. 5 in the Stats Perform FCS top 25 media poll and No. 4 in the FCS coaches poll. Towson, 1-1, was not in either poll after losing 26-14 to New Hampshire, ranked 23rd in both polls.
The Bison got out of the Valpo game with no further injuries. Entz didn’t tip his hand as to the status of starting linebacker James Kaczor, who missed the Beacons’ game with a groin injury.
“We gave him more time to get healthy,” Entz said.