Pat Fredrickson has been crunching numbers for North Dakota State’s athletic department since 1978, when Jimmy Carter was president of the United States. Six commanders in chief later, the 77-year-old is still managing an athletic budget that has grown from $400,000 when she started as business manager 41 years ago to the $25 million it is today.
Now officially labeled as senior associate athletic director of business, Fredrickson has seen multiple changes with NDSU athletics during a time when seven different presidents inhabited the White House. Fredrickson will never forget one of those presidents — George W. Bush.
Back in 2001 — long before the Bison Sports Arena was transformed into the current $40 million Sanford Health Athletic Complex where Fredrickson works — Bush made the first of his two visits to the old BSA.
Appointed NDSU’s point person for the Secret Service, Fredrickson got to meet the president face to face.
“President Bush walks into the room and he walked right up to us … I just couldn’t believe it,” Fredrickson said of a meeting set up by her Secret Service contact. “He shook my hand and I said to him … ‘Mr. President, this event would never have happened had it not been for me.'"
She said Bush laughed, replying, “Believe me, it takes a woman to pull something off like this.”
To a degree, the same can be said about NDSU athletics. To maintain an ever-increasing budget without overspending may have been a much more daunting task without Fredrickson.
“Pat is the CFO … she’s been here for over 40 years and knows every element of our business,” said NDSU Athletic Director Matt Larsen.
“We won’t let her retire,” Todd Phelps, deputy director of athletics, said with a chuckle.
“We told her she has to get to 50 years … minimum,” Larsen said with a smile.
By the numbers
Growing up in Fertile, Minn., Fredrickson has always liked numbers. She attended the Minnesota School of Business in Minneapolis before working with Gate City Bank in Fargo, a job that lasted 12 years before she decided to be a stay-at-home mom for five years.
Then, she started looking for a part-time job. She spotted a job where she worked 30 hours a week for NDSU's athletic business office.
She started that gig in August 1978 and has been at NDSU ever since. She took on the role as athletic business manager, crunching numbers for the budget and eventually helping with ticket sales, not to mention becoming the secretary for the Team Makers booster club.
“To this day, I really can’t tell you how I did it all,” Fredrickson said. “All I can say is that I worked a lot. But I loved it.”
There were plenty of challenges, like the time she had to figure out the seating chart for football season ticket holders when the Bison moved from the outdoor Dacotah Field into the Fargodome. The first year in the Fargodome, ticket holders sat on the west side. Then-head coach Rocky Hager decided he wanted those fans to sit on the east side the following year.
“That was quite a to-do,” Fredrickson said. “You know people and their tickets and where they are used to sitting. I ended up taking the brunt of the calls. That was a very difficult time for me because people got real personal about it. But I got through it.”
Fredrickson has worked under four different athletic directors and eight different presidents at NDSU. Through it all, she has seen firsthand the growth of NDSU athletics that has allowed her to focus solely on the budget.
Josh Hemingway, once a student who worked for Fredrickson, now oversees the ticket office. Fredrickson no longer has to record minutes for the Team Makers — a group that last year, with 4,300 members, raised $6.75 million for Bison athletics.
Her office used to sit inside the ticket booths of the Bison Sports Arena. Now she has a second-floor office in the Sanford Health Athletic Complex with a window that overlooks the Bison football practice fields.
“Every year has gotten better and better,” said Fredrickson, who was contemplating retirement before the renovation of the Bison Sports Arena. “You know, I thought I would like to be up here for at least one year in the new BSA.”
Well, it has been two years now. And through all the changes, Fredrickson has relied on the same process to make sure the budget is balanced.
Fredrickson and the people she works with call it a “zero-based budget.” Fredrickson starts with the next year’s budget every February. The budget is due in May and approved by the vice president of finance and President Dean Bresciani in time for the fiscal year that runs from July to June.
Fredrickson relies on data from previous years, knowing the numbers that change the most are for travel and scholarships. Tuition rates typically go up, and recruiting budgets and equipment costs can fluctuate. Another challenge this past year was the rise in cost for health insurance.
But it is her routine meeting with coaches that ultimately helps shape the budget.
“The coaches will throw numbers against the wall to see what sticks,” Phelps said. “That’s where Pat comes in and starts slashing with her red marker.”
“We sweat it out,” Fredrickson said. “By the first part of June, I mean, coaches see me coming and they know to stop spending money, let me tell you. Expenses are always going to be there. It’s the revenue we monitor all the time because that’s what’s going to make us balance our budget.”
As part of its $24.7 million budget, NDSU generated $11.7 million through gifts and other revenue and $4.2 million through ticket sales.
“Football is the driving ship,” Fredrickson said. “We’ve been fortunate.”
And Fredrickson feels fortunate to have been part of NDSU athletics for more than four decades.
“We have had some great people who have worked here,” Fredrickson said. “It’s real rewarding. I have loved every minute of it. I don’t know how I am going to say goodbye. I can’t imagine not coming here every day. But some day … it’s not too far away.”