As I start this article I want to first wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, to enjoy the day and spend it with family and friends and hopefully a dash of football. I know I can speak for Jeff that we are very thankful for everyone that stops by and checks out the blog, its come a long way in a short period of time, so for everyone that shouts at me in the dome parking lot to at the games, thank you!
Here are my 10 things that Bison fans should be thankful for over the past calendar year.
10. Roger Kish - The Bison wrestling program has been making some major waves over the last couple of years, including back to back All-Americans, with a loaded lineup in 2015 and an impressive schedule, perhaps a dual win over a top 10 team is next? Bison fans should be thankful for one of the top rising coaches in the country.
9. ESPN loves NDSU - That was confirmed again last week when ESPN selected NDSU-Montana as the FCS Kickoff game in 2015. That goes on top of the fact that College Gameday returned for a second straight year this past September to an even bigger crowd than in 2013. Add on that the Bison appeared on ESPN in the FCS quarters against Coastal Carolina, ESPN 2 against UNH and Towson and another couple of appearances thanks to basketball and baseball. It’s exposure that a lot of mid-major schools will never see.
8. Softball and track keep winning - You see schools have programs that bubble up for one season or two and then go away, but that’s not the case with this school. Softball proved again to be the best in the Summit League and then beat Auburn in the NCAA Tournament, while track sent its best relay team to Oregon to perform on the national stage.
7. The “SHAC” - Construction started shortly after the basketball season wrapped up and now if you go past what was the BSA it’s a different sight each time. Bison fans are getting a little bit of a sneak peek inside Scheels Arena with the basketball team and already you can tell they are going to love the finished project in two years time.
6. Saul Phillips - The man who was promising the SHAC since the Bison recruited Ben Ben Woodside deserves A LOT of thanks from Bison fans for putting their program on the map. Two NCAA Tournament trips in five years, a NCAA tourney win and a boatload of memories. Phillips was a reporters dream, always good for a joke and a great story. You can’t think of Saul without thinking of Ben Woodside’s shot in 2009 to Phillips running across the court after the win over Oklahoma. He left Fargo in April, but the memories will last for a long time.
5. Chris Klieman - The current head coach of the Bison football team; was the architect of the best defense in the FCS over the past two years. Klieman molded NDSU’s defense and found some tremendous playmakers from Christian Dudzik to CJ Smith to Kyle Emanuel. The career assistant came to Fargo with what he thought was a chance to be a head coach and has ran with it. He’s guided NDSU to a fourth straight Valley title and the number two seed in the FCS playoffs and assembled a staff that’s poised to do something that no one has done in this division.
4. The football Class of 2010- I think I’m out of words after what I wrote last week about these sixteen guys, but if you want to kill about fifteen minutes you can click here.
3. Brock Jensen - In my mind the greatest quarterback in Bison history, he completed the three-peat in style last year, earning Valley Offensive Player of the Year honors; he was tremendous in 2013 becoming the schools leader in passing and TD passes. His drive at Kansas State was the stuff of legend and will be a member of the Bison Hall of Fame someday down the road.
2. Gene Taylor - The architect of everything, he was the man responsible for leading the charge to Division 1, the man who hired Craig Bohl, Saul Phillips and Chris Klieman. Taylor was the man who got NDSU into the Summit League and the Missouri Valley Football Conference after the Big Sky said no and has NDSU perfectly positioned for its next move if it chooses to make it. Taylor got the money necessary to get Fieldturf at Dacotah Field to the final funds to make the SHAC a reality. His accomplishments can’t not be overstated and while many Bison fans were upset when he left for Iowa, I don’t think anyone would begrudge him.
1. Craig Bohl - In my mind the person who Bison fans should be most thankful of in 2014. I’m sure there are still some people who are upset the way Bohl left and how it came out, but there’s no argument about what he accomplished in Fargo. Bohl took a program that was coming off a 2-8 season in 2002 and four years later nearly beat the University of Minnesota. He actually did beat the Gophers the following year and then backed it up in 2011. In between he added wins against Ball State, Central Michigan and Kansas. He took Bison football to a level where it hadn’t been since the mid-80′s and perhaps surpassed that with the level of fandom that’s been created over the past three years. Bohl’s blueprint is still felt here nearly a year after he left, and while there are still hard feelings for some, those people should be thankful to even have hard feelings that he left in the first place.