Cover Photo by J. Alan Paul Photography
North Dakota State University’s President Dean Bresciani has had the pleasure of seeing his university’s football program bring home four national championship trophies during his five years as president. President Bresciani has been in Frisco, Texas, to witness them all. We catch up with the president and ask him about his time in Frisco, Matt Larsen and what’s new on campus.
What was the best part about being on stage during the pep fest while you were firing up Bison fans?
“The energy of our fans was literally boiling over and I couldn’t help but be inspired by that. Their enthusiasm and passion was something I’ll never forget, and I doubt anyone there will either. I’ve tried to describe it to fans who weren’t able to make the trip and I can’t do it justice.”
We asked you this question last year, but are there any updates that you can give us about NDSU’s academic status nationally?
“There sure are. On a coast-to-coast national level, NDSU’s visibility and reputation have climbed to levels never before achieved by a North Dakota university. I get reminded of that whenever I travel. In just five years at NDSU I’ve gone from having to explain what the NDSU lapel pin on my suit coat stands for, to airport TSA agents and people on the street in east and west coast cities giving me a ‘Go Bison!’ That’s because of a number of factors.
“After becoming the top-ranked university in our state a few years ago, we’ve continued that trajectory and are now the top-ranked university in our five state area of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. We’ll continue that climb in objective rankings because while our top-tier university peers are struggling to at best maintain their status, our research productivity is running about 13 percent ahead of last year and we’ve had another year of record enrollments.
“In fact, NDSU has become the university of choice for more full-time North Dakota high school graduates than any other college or university in the state, and we similarly attract more full-time out-of-state students than any other college or university in the state.
“And of course our athletic success brings national attention to those accomplishments, and I’m not just talking about our NCAA history-making fourth national championship in D-I football. Our recent Capital One Cup No. 1 ranking, (which) tied with Ohio State and the University of Virginia for the fall overall most successful men’s athletic program in the nation, is nothing short of stunning in terms of the national attention it draws to NDSU. ESPN indicating that they’ll return a third time is icing on the cake. And it’s well known in university circles that our athletic performance is matched by the virtually unparalleled, award-winning academic performance of our athletes which really leaves people around the country impressed by what’s going on at NDSU.”
What kind of energy can a new A.D. like Matt Larsen bring to the program and what kind of importance can that have on NDSU Athletics?
“It goes without saying that Matt had big shoes to fill, but I can assure you he’s doing exactly that. Anyone who meets him walks away impressed by his obviously sincere enthusiasm and passion for college sports. But he also brings an impressive business and analytic skill set to the table.
“Perhaps most importantly, Matt gets the culture and values of NDSU Athletics. He gets where we’ve been and where we are now, but he also gets that we have even greater potentials. Most importantly, he knows how to lead our athletic program toward those potentials — without forgoing our culture and values.”
What are your thoughts on the resilience of Bison football this season, especially after the turnover with players and staff in 2013?
“Our team wasn’t looking to the end of the season during the season. They plan and prepare on a game-by-game basis. But they also know what success on a game-by-game basis can lead to.
“The team, and particularly the seniors, were well aware that most people (understandably) presumed it couldn’t be done again. In truth you could have said that about the ‘three-peat,’ but nobody in the history of NCAA D-I football had ever accomplished four in a row. Especially after losing so many seniors, coaches and even the athletic director. In fact, at any place other than NDSU, those factors in combination would have been a recipe for disaster.
“But accepting that wasn’t in the fabric of our players and particularly the team’s senior leadership. It was certainly a motivational factor of major proportions, as was the responsibility they felt to continue the winning tradition of Bison football. That and a very talented core of returning and upcoming team leaders complemented by an outstanding coaching staff put together by an outstanding first-year head coach was obviously a very successful combination.”
We’re seeing construction on campus on our way to the Fargodome. What’s happening with that?
“Through a wide variety of exceptional private support, state support, and a combination of the two through the state’s private gift matching grant program created by our governor and legislature, our aging campus is finally getting a number of overdue facility upgrades and additions.
“The Sanford Health Athletic Complex and in particular Scheels Center are coming along very well. They’ll complement the fantastic new Ellig Indoor Track Facility and recently renovated Dacotah Field which is now home to our women’s soccer program. And it’s hard to miss the new winter ‘bubble’ over Dacotah Field, which is a major game changer not just for football but probably even more so in terms of preseason preparation for our baseball, softball, golf and soccer programs.
“Perhaps the most important project on campus is the new STEM Building (Science Technology, Engineering and Math), which is the first state fully-funded building on our campus in almost 40 years. When completed, somewhere between 4,000-5,000 students per day will benefit from what will arguably be the finest and most contemporary university learning environment in the state, which is intended to increase the number of graduates NDSU produces in some of the most high-demand areas of North Dakota’s economy.”