By Joshua Swanson
North Dakota State students take their job in the student section seriously. Very seriously. For the approximately 4,000 students in the southwest corner of the Fargodome, they view themselves as every bit a part of the game as the offensive tackle springing a running back for a long run. “We will do everything in our power to support our Herd and disrupt the enemy,” said Luke Brodeur, NDSU student body president. “We consider ourselves just as much a part of the game as the players on the field.”
Brodeur isn’t kidding. In recent years, particularly during last season’s memorable December playoff run at the Fargodome that culminated in a national championship, the impact of the student section was measurable, literally. During the three nationally televised playoff games, ESPN routinely cut away to shots of the sideline reporter with a decibel meter comparing the crowd noise to a jet airplane during takeoff. At times, the decibel meter peaked louder than the crowd inside the Metrodome for the World Series games in 1987 and 1991.
Following each playoff game the opposing quarterback, including All-American and Walter Payton Award finalist Chris Lum of Lehigh, commented on the raucous atmosphere. “The atmosphere was definitely tough. Just relaying and communicating with the linemen and receivers was difficult,” explained Lum. It got so loud, quarterbacks are going hoarse from having to scream plays out. “I had to scream to get the plays out,” said, James Madison quarterback, Justin Thorpe. “I almost lost my voice towards the end of the first quarter. It was very loud.”
For former student section Yell Leader Kyle Roth, the student section serves as the spark that ignites the home crowd. “The student section combines boundless energy with a lack of reservation to form a block of 4,000 Bison fans that are on our feet and are loud for four straight quarters.” The Yell Leaders are easily identified in their bright yellow suits leading cheers at tailgating and assisting the cheer and dance squads during games. And don’t forget the Gold Star Marching Band. “There are many aspects of the student section that are crucial, but I believe one of the most important is the Gold Star Marching Band,” said Jace Beehler, NDSU student body vice president. “The pride and enthusiasm the band gives is contagious and is critical to keeping the students engaged.”
Added all up, it creates a unique fraternity— a family affair. “The best part is the fact for those sixty minutes, you have 4,000 brothers and sisters who want the same thing you want – to watch the Bison win,” said Roth. According to Brodeur, the student section embodies the campus community at NDSU. “Being a student at NDSU is all about being part of a community. The feeling of community is never stronger than when you’re standing in the student section next to thousands of others.” It’s a particularly close-knit community with high-fives and hugs making the rounds when the Bison notch a big play. “Anytime there’s a touchdown or a big play on defense, it’s impossible not to find a hand to be high-fived or a bear hug to be had,” noted Roth.
For visiting teams, facing a high-powered national contender like North Dakota State is a big enough challenge in itself. With fan support like that from our student section, the challenge only becomes greater, creating one of the toughest playing environments in all of college football. In 2011, the sports website BleacherReport.com ranked the Fargodome as one of the Top 50 stadiums in college football, describing it as “very unfriendly to any visiting team,” with the “effect only amplified in a playoff atmosphere.”
Beehler summed up this atmosphere from the students’ perspective. “As is said often, ‘the strength of the Bison is the Herd.’ That’s why the student section is so important. It’s our support and passion for our university that makes the Fargodome environment so unique.”