FARGO - I will watch this weekend's FCS semifinals from home for the first time in eleven years and I'm completely fine with that.
North Dakota State's spring season ended Sunday with a 24-20 quarterfinal loss to Sam Houston, the third loss of this spring for the Bison, the most defeats in one season since 2010, the year before this historic dynasty began.
Before I write anything more, please understand I was never a proponent of playing football in the spring. I said it often on my daily TV show and have not been in lock step with others that cover the FCS on the national level like Sam Herder and Craig Haley.
They are friends and colleagues of mine and I have great respect for them. I disagree with their assessments of the spring season.
I thought schools like Towson, Montana, Montana State and Sacramento State may look like the smart ones by sitting out this weird experiment.
I truly believe that when the calendar flipped to January, FCS coaches and athletic directors looked at one another and said, "So I guess this spring season is happening?" I firmly believe in my heart of hearts that they thought the NCAA would step in and cancel the season. But that phone call never came.
As the games began in the middle of February I will admit I was intrigued. I was watching Northern Iowa and South Dakota State on a Friday night and thinking; "Man, I missed this."
Watching NDSU's first game of the spring in person against Youngstown State, there was something missing. Maybe it was the lack of a large crowd or just a lackluster performance from the Bison that day, but it was different. It was weird. And that's exactly how I felt about the entire spring.
As the calendar turned to March, more games started to either be postponed or canceled. Up until that point both NDSU and the University of North Dakota had played all their games. That changed the final week of March. UND was set to fly to Youngstown, Ohio on March 26th when the game was postponed because of COVID-19 issues with the Fighting Hawks.
Reality really hit home that next day as our Bison Media Zone team landed in Vermillion, South Dakota for the NDSU-South Dakota game and I got a text saying "Game canceled. Heading home." The Bison had COVID issues themselves, forcing the cancelation of the game and the postponement of the following week's game with South Dakota State.
As all this was happening with the Bison, there were teams left and right ending their seasons. From Illinois State to Chattanooga, Albany to Wofford. All playoff teams in 2019 or potentially this spring. Fans continued to ask me, "what's happening?" or "is the NCAA going to finally pull the plug?".
The answer is the NCAA was never going to do that. The regular season finished and the playoff bracket was announced, with some teams playing 11 games like Jacksonville State, or three games like Monmouth. Much like the regular season, the postseason was going to be weird. 16 teams, no bye weeks.
Playoff fever not necessarily here in Fargo. pic.twitter.com/dZlZDTQUCd— Dom Izzo (@DomIzzoWDAY) April 24, 2021
Was there value to playing in the spring? I'll ride the fence on that answer. Young players got valuable reps from a Dom Jones to a Courtney Eubanks to South Dakota State's Mark Gronowski. But there was some pretty significant injuries as well, none bigger than another knee injury to Seth Wilson, who's football career may be over.
Beyond that, no one in college football has attempted to play nine to ten games in the spring and then follow up by playing eleven regular season games in the fall. We won't know that answer until games begin in the fall of what the impact of the spring was.
Now that the #NDSU spring season is over, what were your thoughts on it?— HotMicWithDomIzzo (@MicIzzo) May 3, 2021
I'm sure if you polled the players and coaches they would say they liked playing because they were back on the field. NDSU defensive end Logan McCormick told me after the loss Sunday that he "appreciated the fact that they played and that the timing of the loss doesn't give us a lot of time to feel sorry about it.".
For the four remaining teams playing it is a great opportunity to win a national championship. Four programs with a tremendous recent history in the subdivision. They should celebrate it as such. But understand there's a major asterisk that comes with this spring season and it has nothing to do with the fact that the Bison aren't in the final four.
It has more to do that playing in the spring was a weird and bizarre idea and in my opinion, bad idea.
I just hope it doesn't affect the fall season in a bad way.