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Swany Says: Embracing High Expectations

There’s something special about the Bison family and something special about being a Bison. It’s beyond simply cheering for a team or supporting our university. It’s more than that. It’s an engrained part of our lives, going so far as to how we identify ourselves.

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Photo by Paul Flessland

We aren’t like other places. You often hear that about North Dakota State. It’s one of my favorite mantras about NDSU. There’s something special about the Bison family and something special about being a Bison. It’s beyond simply cheering for a team or supporting our university. It’s more than that. It’s an engrained part of our lives, going so far as to how we identify ourselves.

I remember a funeral service for a farmer and lifelong Bison fan from my hometown of Maddock, North Dakota, several years ago. This was a guy I had just raised a few tall ones with in Frisco, Texas, after we won our first Division I national championship. He was a very well known, and well liked, Bison fan going back to the days of Dacotah Field. His family asked that everyone attending the service wear Bison gear. It was powerful. Even in death, in addition to his family and farming, one of the things Kent wanted people to remember about him was his love for the Bison.

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Bison Nation senses the expectations. That’s why NDSU football fans filled the Fargodome to 99.23 percent capacity this past football season. That’s good enough to rank in the Top 20 among FBS schools.

I’ve seen the bonds that our fans have with our teams and university, but things like that stand out. To great fans like Kent, to coaches and players, down the line to our civic leaders, and even the national media reporting on the Bison and telling our story can all attest that Bison Pride is a living and breathing thing that separates us from the crowd. It’s in our DNA.

A part of that DNA is our high expectations. On the playing fields and courts, we expect to compete not just for conference championships, but for NCAA tournaments and national titles. We produce All-Americans across the board in many sports, NFL players and coaches, and even Olympians, with track and field standouts Amanda Smock and Erin Teschuk qualifying for the recent London and Rio games. In the classroom, we’re just as proud, with nearly all of our student-athletes graduating with a college degree. The lists of all-conference and All-American academic performers grow by the year. We also take great pride in our arenas and training facilities, including academic and study areas, which are cutting edge, giving our student-athletes a competitive advantage over their peers at other universities. The pages of this magazine are a testament to that, chronicling our successes as a Bison family, past and present.

“At NDSU, we have high expectations, and rightfully so. We embrace those high expectations. Those expectations are the bedrock of the high standards NDSU holds itself to.”

— JOSHUA A. SWANSON, a native of Maddock, N.D., a proud NDSU alum and a lifelong Bison fan.

Unquestionably, one of the biggest decisions in NDSU history was our decision to move to Division I athletics. It has proved to be one of the smartest decisions and best investments we’ve ever made. It has opened up new horizons and bigger stages to showcase our university, community, our great state—and, although it often goes unmentioned, our status as a world-class research institution and venue to showcase all our graduates, athlete and non-athlete alike. It was, for all practical purposes, our moon shot. To paraphrase the great Neil Armstrong, “Tranquility Base here. The Bison have landed.” It was a bold move stemming from the high expectations of what we knew North Dakota State and the Bison family were capable of.

Our expectations are a critical part of the standards we hold ourselves to and what we aspire to achieve. “High expectations are the key to everything,” said Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. Walton was right. Champions don’t start out by saying, we want to be average, or let’s settle for mediocrity. At NDSU, we have high expectations, and rightfully so. We embrace those high expectations. Those expectations are the bedrock of the high standards NDSU holds itself to. Successful organizations and people, whether in sports, business, or life, hold themselves to the highest of expectations and standards. You don’t see our coaches or players running away from them or making excuses for not meeting expectations. Even though we may fall short sometimes, we never settle. Ever. It’s a process, a process this university and our athletic teams have finely-tuned upon decades of hard work, sacrifice, and contributions from thousands of the Herd.
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After the first spring football practice in late March, Bison quarterback Easton Stick summed this up, sounding every bit the part of the great players that came before him, telling The Forum, “We weren’t the best team in FCS football last year and that’s where we want to be. That’s the standard of this program.”

There were no excuses from Stick. No complaining about injuries to key players, or only coming a play or two away from playing for a sixth straight national title. You don’t hear that from our players or coaches. That’s a big reason why Bison football has reached the heights it has. Whenever the media asks about our team’s expectations heading into the 2017 campaign, remember this: Nobody—not you, not the media, not anyone cheering the green and yellow, including myself—has higher expectations for this team, or any of our teams, than the players and coaches themselves.

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It’s the same reason why many of our other programs continually compete for, and win, conference championships and play in the NCAA postseason. It’s a mentality that sets the bar high. Many teams talk about high expectations, but are marred in mediocrity and sub-.500 records year after year. The words of the great patriot and American statesman Benjamin Franklin ring just as true today as they did when he spoke with such clarity on the topic nearly 250 years ago. “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” One thing you never hear from our championship teams are excuses. Adversity strikes us all. We all have setbacks and will continue to have setbacks. Competing for, and winning, championships isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen as some preordained event that rains its glory down on only a select few. It’s earned.

High expectations have been firmly established from great performances in previous years, from ringing the championship bell, and daring us to aspire to uphold the standards set by our forebears. NDSU is a special place, in part, because we don’t shy away from these high expectations. We embrace them. This year, our teams took up that mantle and continued that work. That makes them an integral part of a championship tradition stretching back decades. For that, we are proud and give them thanks as they truly embody our creed: The strength of the Herd is the Bison, and the strength of the Bison is the Herd. Everybody up for the kickoff, the march is on!

QUANTIFIERS OF “SUCCESS” SINCE 2010

Here’s a quick list of a few accomplishments NDSU has recorded since 2010 that prove the bar for excellence at NDSU is set higher than at most schools.

FOOTBALL
24-2
FCS Playoff Record
5
FCS Championships

 

WRESTLING
27
NCAA Championship Qualifiers
3
NCAA All-Americans

 

TRACK AND FIELD
22
Summit League Championships
28
All-Americans

 

MEN’S BASKETBALL
4
Summit League Tournament Finals
3
NCAA Tournament Games

 

SOFTBALL
5
NCAA Tournament Appearances
5
NCAA Tournament Victories

Swany Says: Embracing High Expectations
Bison Illustrated The Rise May 2017
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