FARGO – It wasn't long after the team buses had arrived back from Minneapolis when Tyler Roehl started getting text messages. The North Dakota State running back was blowing up on ESPN and so was his phone.
"SportsCenter" on that Saturday night in 2007 had an NDSU focus to it after Roehl ran for a school-record 263 yards against the University of Minnesota. Lou Holtz loved it, giving Roehl a helmet sticker, a weekly reward of sorts to the day's best player.
"Looking back, it was just different to see NDSU blasted on ESPN," Roehl said. "I think it was kind of a welcoming party, as to say, hey, we're here now and we're going to be here for a while."
Aside from a couple of down years, the school has been a regular on the network, and it's continuing today when ESPN's "SportsCenter on the Road" will air live inside Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome from 6-8 a.m. It's almost become a bromance.
The pinnacle, of course, were the two appearances by "College GameDay" pregame show in 2013 and 2014. NDSU was under consideration this week for a third straight year, but the traveling show will be at the University of Utah today.
Still, the "GameDay" quartet of Lee Corso, Desmond Howard and Kirk Herbstreit and the hosts of the show-first Chris Fowler, and now Rece Davis-have referenced NDSU in the past three seasons from time to time.
"It's like we're the adopted team in a way," Roehl said. "You saw that with 'GameDay' coming back. You see stuff on the '(ESPN) Bottom Line.' It's pretty cool-there's a direct connection between both parties."
NDSU was prominent in August in the College Football Kickoff-the only game in NCAA football on Aug. 29. Brent Musburger was the play-by-play voice in Montana's 38-35 win over the Bison in Missoula, Mont., on ESPN.
Now comes "SportsCenter on the Road," which rolled into town on Thursday with its retrofitted bus. It's a traveling studio of sorts and there's no mistaking it with the ESPN trademark red color and graphics.
The concept of bringing the show to the people started last year and has been to Notre Dame, Michigan, Boston College and just two weeks ago in Collegeville, Minn., for the St. John's and University of St. Thomas game.
Michael Fountain, the senior coordinator producer for SportsCenter, said at least a couple of sites each weekend are targeted well in advance, and as each weekend approaches, those are narrowed down. The final call for NDSU came after the Bison defeated South Dakota State 28-7 last Saturday night.
"You see how teams are performing on the field," Fountain said. "There are other factors like weather, travel, things of that nature. We always look and and at least make sure to discuss quote, unquote off-the-radar sites. We love taking the show to smaller venues, because the reception of the fans and schools is generally over the top. It makes for a better product on Saturday morning."
The enthusiastic reception the show got at St. John's validated that. The downtown Fargo crowds for the "GameDay" shows numbered in the thousands, with some estimates as high as 8,000 people. "GameDay" senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting, in fact, is never shy about tweeting about NDSU on his Twitter account.
This week, the Bison players have been concentrating on the 1 p.m. game with Northern Iowa today, but the effects of ESPN still bring smiles when asked about the network.
"It's good to have that exposure. You don't have to explain to people who North Dakota State is," said NDSU linebacker Pierre Gee-Tucker, from Belleville, Ill.
The same goes for any Bison player from outside the region. Sophomore nose guard Nate Tanguay from Mukwonago, Wis., said he'll get photos from friends who see him on ESPN.
"I love it. It's great recognition of our program," Tanguay said. "It's great for recruiting, great in all aspects of getting Fargo on the map and getting North Dakota on the map. We want to be a great football school and an all-around community, and I'm glad they're recognizing this place."
Probably the active team leader in ESPN appearances is senior receiver Zach Vraa, who has had a couple of touchdown plays featured on the nightly "SportsCenter" show. Vraa, who received a medical hardship in addition to redshirting, came to NDSU after the 3-8 season of 2009, and at that time all the ESPN love wasn't something anybody thought about.
Now, his friends and family back in the Twin Cities have seen plenty of No. 82.
"We've been super-fortunate, just to know they want to come back to us," Vraa said. "They pick us over some FBS schools, and that shows you how much our program has grown and hopefully will continue to do that in the years ahead."
In addition to today's show, "SportsCenter on the Road" also did a live shot Friday night from downtown Fargo, where NDSU held its homecoming parade.
"It allows our brand, our name to continue to be out there," said NDSU head coach Chris Klieman, "and not only for football but the entire university and athletic department."