I think that a rivalry has two makeups. First, is the mentality of the team. Do the players view this as a rivalry? Secondly, what is the mentality of the fan bases? Do the fans think a game is a rivalry? Depending on who you ask, you could get many different answers to the same question.
I have been following Bison football since moving up to Fargo in 2003 and looking back over the last 12 years, there have been more “big games” than I can possibly list in a 600-word column.
Ask any NDSU player, past or present, “What is the most important game on the schedule?” and I would guess the answer would be “the next one.” That is what makes a winning program and, year after year, the Bison show up each and every week to play the next “big game.”
That’s not to say that when the schedule comes out, the players don’t look to see when some key games will be, of course, they do. I remember every year when the schedule would come out, my first look was to see when we played South Dakota State and when we played our FBS opponents. After that first look, it was on to prepping for the first week’s game.
When Dakota Marker (South Dakota State) week came, or when we were playing an FBS opponent, my focus didn’t change, but the hype catalyzed by the media and fans for that week does. And one key area of college sports that doesn’t get the credit it deserves is the Sports Information Department.
At NDSU, Bison student-athletes and coaches are lucky to have a great staff that keeps everybody internally informed about not only how to conduct themselves with a hot microphone in their face, but gathering the media on a consistent basis each week.
Ryan Perreault and his team do a great job of keeping players in the know. I remember when I was playing, Jeff Schwartz was constantly going above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that the media experience was a positive one for student athletes, but also, not distracting us from the task at hand which was going to class and playing football.
Having a great communications staff can really make life easier for a football team because it’s easy to get caught up and buy into the media buzz.
What is the other team saying? How many times can I get into the paper or on the radio as a player? Maybe even on TV? But when it is all said and done, the press clippings and the audio sound bites don’t determine how happy you are with a season. What mattered at the end of every season was the number in the wins column. This can be something that’s difficult to understand for brash 18-to-22-year-old kids. Yet, NDSU has mastered the handling of the media with their student athletes.
Now, looking at the 2015 Bison football season, what games are you going to circle on your calendar? What games are the players looking forward to most? There is certainly no shortage of big games this year, and October 10 is no exception when the Thundering Herd welcomes the University of Northern Iowa to the FargoDome to avenge last year’s lone defeat.
Get ready Bison fans because this year is going to be filled with some Big Games.