Bison not afraid to invest in football, title game included
North Dakota State brings a large traveling party every year it has made FCS championship game
FRISCO, Texas — The 70 players and a multitude of coaches for North Dakota State that will suit up for Sunday's Division I FCS national championship game arrived in Dallas late Thursday afternoon. But NDSU's traveling party is so big to these events that the Bison need two charter planes.
The NCAA pays for one. The school pays for the other, making a point to bring redshirt players, injured players, administrators, school staff and family members. The gathering in Frisco for the 10th time since 2011 this weekend is just as much of a team celebration as it is a football game.
"I always say working at NDSU is a great place to work," said NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen. "I think it's because we treat our people well. Making it to a national championship is special. It's something we've always done and I feel like we do it for all the right reasons. It's just things we think that are really important to us."
The total traveling party is 264 people, with the NCAA picking up a per diem tab for 145. NDSU pays for the difference using ticket revenue generated from NCAA playoff games at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
It takes an investment to get this far and playing for a championship is no different. NDSU's experience is that it's well worth it. A typical road game traveling party is around 135.
"Typically this is the way we've done it and it's an opportunity to bring families down," Larsen said.
Specifically, it's a chance for the team to bring wives and children of coaches, who work seven days a week with most days being long hours.
"They sacrifice a bunch throughout the year," Larsen said. "You see (defensive coordinator) David Braun's two little boys out there and they get to see what dad does when he goes away on weekends. That's what makes college athletics unique, where you can have your kids around and see what you do. Especially our coaches where there are times during the year where they may not see their kids for weeks on end because by the time they get home their kids are in bed. So to me these are great opportunities to bring all of that together."
The biggest difference from a typical road trip is bringing redshirt players, something the Bison have done every year since their first appearance in the 2011 title game. Not only will they participate in NDSU's Friday and Saturday practices, but head strength and conditioning coach Jim Kramer will put them through a workout at a local high school.
"You want those redshirt guys to say, hey, this is a chance to see what a national championship game is like," Larsen said.
The Bison play South Dakota State at Toyota Stadium with a 1 p.m. kickoff that will be televised nationwide by ABC.
NDSU is staying at the Omni Frisco Hotel, which is adjacent to The Star, the headquarters and practice facilities of the Dallas Cowboys. The Bison stayed in the same hotel last season when they defeated Montana State 38-10 for their ninth FCS national title.
NDSU had its last full fledged practice in Fargo before they boarded an NCAA-charted Sun Country Airlines plane. A second plane was chartered from GlobalX. For Larsen, it's his seventh championship game.
"Every year it's a new team," he said. "It's a new story. It's a new journey. There's ups and downs, some years it's easier to get here. There's always people where it's their first time and to be able to see it through their eyes is pretty cool, too. "