North Dakota State has dominated the landscape of FCS football since 2011. Six national titles in seven seasons. A record of 97-8, including 5-0 against FBS opponents. Two ESPN “College GameDay” visits and one “SportsCenter on the Road” visit. Not to mention quarterback Carson Wentz being drafted No. 2 overall and becoming an MVP candidate this season.
[divider]COMPARE: Teams | Players [divider]
Minus an injury-filled 2016 year where the Bison lost to eventual national champs James Madison in the semifinals, they have owned the spotlight. NDSU is the kingpin of the FCS. The standard. The team everyone is chasing and few have come close to catching.
The Bison are the model of consistency every team strives for. They’ve made their run with three different starting quarterbacks and two different coaching staffs. And quite honestly, there doesn’t seem to be an end in site. The Bison may have their best roster next season since the 2013 team that went undefeated. Seven national championships in eight years? It seems absurd. Heck, the three-peat after that 2013 season was historic. But the seventh isn’t just possible, it’s likely.
Continuing 2017 FCS Title Coverage:
HERDER: The North Dakota State Dynasty is as Strong as Ever
HERDER: NDSU Reloads Once Again with an Experienced, Stacked 2018 Team
MCLAUGHLIN: Best FCS Title Game In 40 Years
MCLAUGHLIN: NDSU's Florida Talent Pipeline Pays Dividends
Which begs the question: is NDSU’s dynasty a good or bad thing for the FCS?
Teams like the New York Yankees, New England Patriots and Alabama football are often times loathed by sports fans with no connection to the team. “I’m so sick of (insert team)” is a typical saying when deciding who to cheer for in the big game. It’s no different with NDSU.
Fans from Montana to Delaware, from South Dakota to Sam Houston State, are no doubt sick of watching the Bison play in Frisco, Texas. It’s quite obvious national poll voters are tired of the Bison as well. One loss usually drops NDSU from No. 1 or 2 all the way to No. 5-7 when other teams only drop one or two spots after their first loss of the season. Two voters in the final coaches poll even gave their first-place votes to JMU or North Carolina A&T over the national championship-winning Bison.
It is what it is. The Bison fatigue set in a long time ago. And it’s understandable. Maybe the excitement level of a 24-team playoff isn’t there anymore when the same team is sitting at the top year after year. In that respect, NDSU’s run has negatively impacted the FCS. But that’s about as far as it goes. The positives far outweigh the negatives.
The question comes up every now and then if the FCS is getting watered down. Teams like Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Coastal Carolina have moved up to the FBS. Despite losing those nationally competitive programs, though, the subdivision is as strong as it’s ever been. And a decent chunk of the credit for that should go to the Bison.
After each Bison playoff win, the opposing coach’s opening remarks in the downstairs of the Fargodome always mentions NDSU has set the bar. Because teams are trying to reach that standard, the Bison have raised the level of play for every program eyeing a national title. JMU head coach Mike Houston told his team during his first season in 2016 that they are going to have a team built to beat North Dakota State. They did just that and almost did it again this year.
South Dakota State has stepped up its recruiting along with all the other Missouri Valley Football Conference teams. Programs all around the FCS are changing their style of play to replicate NDSU’s formula. Others, like SHSU head coach K.C. Keeler admitted, just don’t see teams like NDSU in the southern conferences and can’t simulate it in one week of practice to knock the Bison off.
Every team has stepped up or is trying to step up their game. That, overall, is making the FCS stronger.
And here’s the other side of NDSU’s success: the FCS brand is at its peak right now. More people than ever know about this subdivision. Sure, there’s a ways to go to get the respect it deserves. After all, NFL Draft “expert” Adam Schefter said Carson Wentz came from a Division II school leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft. But even so, the FCS was in the limelight because of Wentz and NDSU.
He’s not the only one. David Johnson of Northern Iowa is the best young running back in the league. Jimmy Garoppolo’s star is starting to shine in San Francisco for the Eastern Illinois alum. Running back Tarik Cohen (North Carolina A&T) and wide receiver Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington), both had solid 2017 rookie years. Overall, 15 FCS players were drafted in 2017 and 20 were picked in 2016.
The countless FCS over FBS “upsets” over the years not only gave the league more recognition, but it can also be attributed to more and more FCS schools signing high school athletes with FBS offers. By now, everyone realizes the top of the FCS is much stronger than the bottom of the FBS.
ESPN, while it still can be improved, has grown a solid relationship with the FCS. NDSU and JMU provided some of the most memorable “College GameDay” scenes in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017. And ratings have reached the millions for the quarterfinal, semifinal and title games on the main networks.
NDSU isn’t to thank for all of this, of course. But the Bison have had a huge helping hand. Their run of national titles not only brought national recognition to the FCS, it’s strengthened the level of play.
As Desmond Howard of “College GameDay” said, "North Dakota State University isn't relevant because we're here. Their football program is very relevant in the landscape of college football.”
And because of this, the FCS as a whole is getting more and more relevant in the landscape of college football.
MORE: Marquise Bridges and Sophomore FCS Stars on the Rise
MORE: Jabril Cox and Freshman FCS Stars on the Rise