Photos and text by Andrew Jason
We sat down with NDSU President, Dean Bresciani to talk football, academics and Bison Pride.
What does the success of the Athletics department mean to the institution as a whole?
“I argue that the success of the football team and the Athletic program overall is really a distillation of everything that is happening at NDSU. You bring the catalyst for phenomenal academic success, drawing new students, drawing new businesses, drawing new jobs, and creating the new knowledge that starts through our research. You bring the together a community with something to rally around. Something that never existed in this community before. When I say community, it’s not just the NDSU community or the Fargo-Moorhead community. It’s the entire state. It provides us with a point of pride that has a national audience. In fact, I’m hearing that from all over the country. ‘What is going on there?’ The football program becomes the trigger to looking at the Athletics program, which becomes the trigger to looking at the academic program, which becomes the trigger to looking at North Dakota very differently. People outside of the state think we’re flat, boring, agriculture and have a bunch of oil. Well, the success of the university and its athletics, defies all of that.”
Does the exposure of being on ESPN and having a national audience help your cause?
“Absolutely. That’s market penetration on a level of national visibility that, regardless of how many millions I had for an advertising account, we could never capture. Captured in an efficient manner and in a manner with an audience that cares about colleges and universities. It’s direct marketing to a known audience…”
You were at Texas A&M before coming here. Have you been surprised by what you’ve found here?
“I certainly knew of the long tradition as far as the success of the Athletic program, especially the football program at the D2 level. I saw the similarities of NDSU and Texas A&M, even though they’re obviously in different locations, we have better weather than Texas, but they’re very similar in regards to the culture…Taking those similarities and seeing the opportunities to build on a tradition of success, throwing in elements of Texas A&M. It has come together.”
What’s the vision for the next 5 to 10 years?
“Institutionally, it’s a hand in glove. Like I said, the Athletic Program is a distillation of the passion people have for us academically. We have become one of the top tier research universities in the nation. When you blend that with the visibility that athletics provide the institution, we start being seen with the best of the best, not just one of the best. The opportunity for people to start mistaking us for a BCS school is at our fingertips. The success of virtually every front, every measure I can imagine of a higer education institution, NDSU fits into those descriptions. We’re the state’s top ranked institution. We’re producing more research at a faster rate than any other university in the nation. In fact, most universities are going down at the rate we’re going up as far as our productivity in the research area. Our demand by students, our retention and graduation rates are beating national averages. The list goes on and on and we contribute more to the state’s economy more than virtually any other single source does. Almost $900 million a year is generated for the North Dakota economy because of NDSU. Our students enjoy almost a 14 percent rate of return on every dollar they put into their education. They make almost twice as much as somebody who doesn’t have a NDSU degree on average. On every measure, the university is succeeding. The Athletic Program is what triggers people seeing those things that they might overlook.”
What are some of your fonder moments in regards to athletics over the last year or two?
“I think one of the things that is relatively unique, and keep in mind that this is my ninth university, my fourth Division 1 School and I’ve worked from West to East Coast. The thing that has struck me from the very start is that our student athletes are students then athletes. Early on at my time at NDSU, I met with the student Athletic Council. All the coaches and ADs left the room and I said, ‘A quick show of hands. When I say student-athletes, how many of you think of you as students first?’ They didn’t look at each other to see what the right anwer was, everyone said students. Every single one. Football players, wrestlers, volleyball, soccer, you name it. The other three Division 1 schools I was at, the football players, wrestlers and basketball players wouldn’t have been there in the first place. That said a lot.”
How valuable are the fans and supporters?
“That’s the beauty of what’s happening at NDSU. We’re building a level of enthusiasm that’s drawing enthusiasm. We would not be able to be successful like we are; we would not be able to dominate our homefield, were it not for our Teammakers, if it weren’t for the fans. Coming from Texas A&M, which is a pretty loud place to play football, I have seen teams struggle, particularly in the fourth quarter, especially if they’re behind to even get plays called, to not get delays of games, to have trouble calling signals. Oh, am I describing a home game at NDSU? Yes. We’re starting to win games because of our passion and enthusiasm of our fans, band, of everyone associated with NDSU.”
Our fan base travels so well. We had thousands of fans travel down to Texas. You get to reconnect with a lot of Alumni, what does that mean for the university?
“Last year, we brought more people from across the country to our game than Arkansas brought from a state away for the Cotton Bowl. That’s not exactly a school that’s not passionate for football… You hit it on the point. It’s an opportunity to reconnect, to reestablish a connection with 80,000 some odd graduates and for them to remember that experience as one of the most exciting, vibrant things they’ve done in their lives. Anybody that was there, their hair stood up on the back of their neck because of the passion and enthusiasm. When people connect while you’re at a high tide, they want to be a part of staying there. They want to surf that experience all the way to the end. That’s why we keep seeing our fan base, our support from Teammakers and our ability to be successful to grow and grow. It’s because it feels better and better. Everytime we’re winning across all sports, across all academic disclipines, it feels really good and people want more of that feeling.”
What is Bison Pride to you?
“Not only a feeling but knowing that you’re part of something unique and special. Something that most people won’t ever get to be a part of in their lives and knowing that you’re getting the opportunity and the privelege of being part of something that no one can ever take away from you. No matter what happens in the rest of your life. You’re going to have an incredible memory of being part of something special.”