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Bison coach Matt Entz: Nothing wrong with NDSU football program

The transfer of three Bison players with the FCS playoffs on deck, although surprising, is the product of the 45-day portal window.

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North Dakota State's Marques Sigle celebrates his Western Illinois interception during their football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Macomb, Illinois.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.
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FARGO — North Dakota State head football coach Matt Entz admits to being “extremely surprised” when he found out three of his players were putting their names into the transfer portal with the FCS playoffs in full force. It’s also the new state of college football.

Cornerback Marques Sigle, running back Dom Gonnella and wide receiver DJ Hart — all of whom had a significant role in NDSU’s 9-2 season and No. 3 playoff seed — left the team with the 45-day portal window opening on Monday.

“I think a lot of people on the team were surprised,” Entz said Tuesday, “but at this time all I can worry about are the guys that are here. I’m excited about the guys that are here and the opportunity that is ahead of them.”

Entz said a staff meeting he had with his assistants on Monday addressed the issue and how to best get in front of it.

“Probably just have to be matter of fact and just ask kids more often,” he said. “We just can’t ask how they’re doing, just try to be more point blank with them.”

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In the bigger picture, the revised portal window where the first day is one day after the FCS playoff field is announced means FCS coaches across the country may come to dread that day in the coming years. Players declaring their intent now instead of waiting for after the season may have more chances of getting a scholarship elsewhere.

“I’m sure there has been someone behind the scenes that has tried to influence these guys other than coaches from NDSU,” Entz said. “I’m not going to sit here and say our kids are tampered with but I’m not going to say they’re not tampered with. We have a ton of records of our players being contacted by other institutions.”

Entz said there is nothing wrong with his program and that the Bison are doing the same things they always have in earning nine national championships in the last 11 seasons. What’s changed, he said, is the surroundings of college football like the transfer portal and name, image, likeness opportunities.

Entz said he got two emails on Monday basically stating that former Bison head coaches Craig Bohl and Chris Klieman never lost players in the same manner. Bohl and Klieman, when at NDSU, never had to deal with the transfer portal, either.

“We’ve lost plenty of kids all throughout the years,” Entz said. “Now it’s just advertised at a different level. I think the things that have changed are the things that are outside of our control. I don’t think NDSU is immune to what’s going on.”

That was a topic at the annual Missouri Valley Football Conference coaches meeting Monday. Britton Pascoe, a Bison redshirt freshman cornerback who had yet to play, also announced his entry into the portal Monday.

“There weren’t any teams in the league that were immune to this,” Entz said. “I don’t think it’s good for our level of football.”

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Since the inception of the transfer portal in the last three years, Entz said there have been over 400 players who have transferred from FCS to FBS. Asked if the starting date of the 45-day window should change, Entz said he didn’t know.

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“When is a good time?” Entz said. “I don’t know if there is such a good time. It’s one of those things that we’re all going to have to deal with, not just NDSU but every program in the country so our best approach is to try and minimize it as best we can and try to get kids that want to be here and see the value of being here.”

It appears NDSU will rely on its current rotation in replacing the three players. The Bison have rotated four players at the two cornerback spots all season, which will be reduced to three with Jayden Price, Courtney Eubanks and Destin Talbert. Same at wide receiver where Zach Mathis, Braylon Henderson, Jake Lippe, Raja Nelson and lately Eli Green have taken turns.

Gonnella was around the No. 3 back most of the year behind Kobe Johnson and TaMerik Williams.

“We still think we have plenty of depth,” Entz said. “That’s one of the things we’ve done a good job with is to create depth in our program.”

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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