Photo By Hillary Ehlen
Where does NDSU President Dean Bresciani see NDSU and its athletic programs going in the future?
This football program has the highest GPA of the Division I era and the athletic department as a whole is at a 3.4 GPA. From your perspective as President, what does that say about North Dakota State University and the student-athletes here?
It’s also important to note that there are 88 student-athletes with a 4.0 GPA. That’s crazy. What jumps out in my mind, is that we have administration and coaching staff in our athletic programs that are recruiting exactly the kind of student-athletes we want. They’re not just recruiting students, they’re not just recruiting athletes, they’re recruiting disciplined student-athletes. Discipline being the key part there. Our coaches recognize that disciplined students make disciplined athletes. That is a recipe that too few programs do not get.
Too many programs are trying to find a shortcut to success. Our coaches recognize that if they get a mature, intelligent, disciplined student, who is also an athlete, they’ll be able to coach them on the athletic part. They cannot install those personal fibers.
Obviously it’s working because this isn’t only happening in football. Across all sports, we are regularly one of the top ten winningest Division I programs in the nation. That does not jump out to you as intuitive sitting in Fargo, North Dakota. Maybe some other places in the country, but how are we doing it in Fargo, North Dakota? It’s because we are approaching things differently.
As a person who witnesses all of the games and watches the team progress over the course of a season, could you have foreseen a 16-0 season?
It was honestly the complete opposite. In the locker room after the championship game, I said:
“Guys, everyone was looking at us as a team with a new head coach, a largely new coaching staff, a freshman quarterback and with 24 seniors having departed, and they knew we couldn’t possibly have a good season. They said this was going to be a rebuilding year. Now they’re saying well if that was a rebuilding year, what can we expect next year when they’re even stronger?”
This goes against everything I know about major college athletics. It shouldn’t have happened, it couldn’t happen, and people were saying there is no way that it’s going to happen. It happened.
What is going through your mind on that final play where James Hendricks picks it off?
Having been through this so many times before, if you watch our players, there is a calm professionalism about them that is uncanny. We are not going to lose. I saw that with Carson [Wentz] against Illinois State where he very calmly said: “guys, we have 1:38 left”. Most college quarterbacks would have worried about having that amount of time left, but he knew he had all the time he needed.
I felt that in the defensive stance as well. It was the mentality that we were not going to lose that game. There is just no sense of panic, no sense of questioning. That is a level of maturity and calmness that I don’t think can be compared. I’m trying to think of it in a military analogy. You have 18, 19, 20 or 21-year-olds, performing on national television and remaining calm when their backs are against the wall. That is an extraordinary testament to who these people are.
Where do you see this program going heading into 2020 and where do you see North Dakota State University going in the future?
The football program is probably the most visible point of attention we get because of the national television coverage it’s creating for us. Our athletic program, in general, is defining us as a major research university among major research universities. That isn’t necessarily an indication of size. We’re smaller than most of those research universities in terms of enrollment, but we perform in a way that is very comparable whether that be athletics, research productivity, patents, license and royalty fees. We’re competing with the biggest universities in the nation.
I don’t apologize for us being smaller in terms of enrollment. I think that is one of our advantages. It means that our students are all in this together as a university community and that includes our student-athletes. They go to the same classes, they see the same advisors, they get the same tutoring as students at large do. I think that keeps them grounded and sober whereas some programs that are larger, the student-athletes are segregated and have a very different experience from the student body at large. That is not a positive thing for the student-athletes or the students at large.