While North Dakota State has burst onto the national scene in recent years, the Bison have been winning for a long time.
North Dakota State has become the benchmark football program in the FCS, winning five straight national titles from 2011-15 before dropping in the semifinals to eventual champion James Madison this past season. The Bison have become a household name, but head coach Chris Klieman is here to tell you: winning is nothing new in Fargo.
“We’ve been winning championships since the ‘60s, so it’s not like this has just [recently] been happening,” Klieman told me in a recent interview. “It’s been happening for a long time.”
The Bison won three Division II national championships in the 1960s and then five more between 1983-1990, making it the program with the most titles in the division’s history. They then made the jump to Division I in 2003 led by Craig Bohl, who from 2003-14 turned the Bison into a machine.
Klieman, who worked under Bohl from 2011-14, ensured that the program did not miss a beat, keeping the FCS title in Fargo for the first two years of his reign.
For the 49-year-old Iowa native, it is the passion and support of Bison fans that makes the program so special.
“They’ve been selling out whatever venue they’ve played – whether it’s been outside or inside in the Fargodome – for decades and decades. It’s an electric atmosphere outside the stadium at our tailgates. It’s an electric atmosphere throughout the week around town and our community. Everybody buys in and everybody jumps on the NDSU Bison, not bandwagon, but just jumps on top of NDSU because they’re so excited about our program and our guys.”
As far as the home-field advantage that the fans give Klieman’s team, he can give you one reason why it is so special.
“It’s the loudest venue I’ve ever been at.”
Klieman then described playing at far bigger venues such as Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium and Kansas State’s Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
“I thought it was loud, but our guys could always hear.”
Such isn’t always the case at the 19,000-seat Fargodome, where the sound has nowhere to go. At times, it can be overbearing.
“It is loud and it forces you to deal with it,” James Madison defensive coordinator Bob Trott said prior to last year’s playoff semifinal matchup.”
“It’s a great advantage for us,” Klieman reiterated.
That will continue far into the future. After all, all of this – winning championships and fans going all out for the Bison – has been happening for a long time.