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Kolpack: When Sigurd leaves NDSU, his Bison title rings will stay

Gold Star Band director hanging up that portion of his duties after a 'fortunate' run of eight trips to Frisco

North Dakota State Band director Sigurd Johnson gives direction during the women's basketball home opener against Northern Iowa on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Forum Communications Co.


It will be Senior Day for the North Dakota State football team on Saturday; 11 players will be honored before their last regular-season game at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. The most senior member of the program in his last game, however, will not be coming through the inflatable helmet in the northeast corner.

Sigurd Johnson will be at his customary post when the lights go out for NDSU’s pregame introduction video.

The director of the Gold Star Marching Band since 2008, like a player who put his guts into a team for four or five years, is moving on to other career ventures with the university music programs. In essence, it’s not much different than if Matt Entz decided to retire as the Bison head coach.

“It’s an awful lot like being a coach,” Sigurd said. “There’s recruiting, assessing where we’re at during the week and are you ready to go? A lot of people at halftime go get a hot dog or whatever but at the same time there are still a lot of people who expect us to be ready to go. Just like coach Entz, they expect the team to be ready to perform.”


Sigurd has seen the Bison perform, and then some. He came onto the Division I FCS football scene at about the right time. His office is proof.

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North Dakota State Band director Sigurd Johnson gets ready before the women's basketball home opener against Northern Iowa on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Forum Communications Co.

The Bison won eight national championships in a nine-year span starting in 2011. As the band director, and rightfully so, Sigurd was presented with national title rings. Let’s just say they are of the very large variety.

Sigurd has six of those. In the other two years, he took the option of a championship watch and a championship trophy. In true teamwork, when he leaves, the rings stay.

It’s a tribute to all the members who played in the band in those title years.

“I make sure people understand that I’m accepting those on behalf of the band,” he said. “It’s impractical to have the whole band get a ring but hopefully they understand I’m saying thank you on behalf of the band.”


The plan when Sigurd is fully retired is to display the rings at some sort of secure display case somewhere in the music facility.

“They are very cool and they are for the band,” he said.

It’s not lost on Sigurd that 100% of band directors out there haven’t had the chance to bring a band to eight football national title games in such a short span. He went through the 3-8 season of 2009, but after that the route to Frisco, Texas, has been like driving to Minneapolis.

“I’m very aware of how incredibly fortunate I am with this,” Sigurd said. “I came to NDSU, and we’ve always had good sports, but I came at a time when all of a sudden we went to Frisco. The basketball team, the whole Division I thing took off. I’ve been right in the middle of those incredible experiences. I feel good for the kids, so many have had that experience right along with the teams. It’s the cool part of all the work it takes to bring a band to Frisco. The students understand all about the national championship games and an awful lot of marching band directors and students never get those experiences.”

Game days are a marathon. They start with the staff and drum majors meeting for breakfast, with conversation mainly centering on planning for the two-hour morning rehearsal in the Fargodome. It’s the only time the band can get into Gate City Bank Field during the week, so those two hours need to be on point.

Sigurd usually heads back to his office at the Reineke Fine Arts Center for some rare down time. Once the band arrives, and a uniform check is done, it’s off marching to the dome.

On Saturday, with the University of South Dakota in town with a Missouri Valley Football Conference outright title on the line, Sigurd will crank it up one more time. It’s just time to do something else with the career at NDSU.

“Yeah, there are a lot of things I’ll miss about it,” he said. “I like Bison football, Bison basketball and volleyball. I can still go to the games of course but I’ll miss being a part of it. At the same time, I’m not going to miss the stress that can be involved with it. I feel really good about my decision. I’d rather go out on my own terms rather than have everyone looking at their watch waiting for me to retire.”

Related Topics: MATT ENTZ
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