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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 01 2011

Kolpack: NDSU professor likes Bison over the Dukes

The Facebook page for North Dakota State business professor Newell Wright filled up quickly after he posted something to this effect:

Go Bison.

He used to teach at James Madison University for 13 years.

His former students were quick to make light of the situation with words like traitor and turncoat. The Dukes’ football team flew into Fargo for Saturday’s Division I Football Championship Subdivision second round game at the Fargodome. Wright and his wife will be there – cheering for NDSU.

He’s a college football fan and a pretty good lucky charm for national championships at that. The professor was an undergraduate at Brigham Young University in 1984 when the Cougars won a national title.

“That cemented my allegiance to college football,” Wright said.

He was at James Madison in 2004 when the Dukes won an FCS national title.

“You could sense the students took stake in the championship,” Wright said. “There was a lot of pride.”

Will he bring that good fortune to NDSU? “I hope they make it happen,” he said.

Wright was in Europe teaching during that JMU title game but the magnitude of it to the entire university hit home when he flew back to Washington, D.C. The school commandeered all vans for the title game in Chattanooga, Tenn.

It cost the university a hefty taxi ride to get the professor back to Harrisonburg, Va.

Harrisonburg and Fargo are alike in many ways. Both have similar downtowns. Both schools are similar in size.

Wright came to Fargo in the summer of 2009, so he doesn’t think any of the JMU football players he had in class are still with the team. He is a professor of marketing and director for center for global initiatives at NDSU.

“I was perfectly content and happy at JMU but there was an opportunity here that I could not pass up,” he said.

He’s not the only one with a NDSU-JMU connection. Wright led an academic tour of Europe in 2010 consisting of 10 students from each university in a cost-sharing venture. They visited seven countries in a study of the European Union.

A few NDSU students even invited a few JMU students to Fargo – in February. The activities included ice fishing.

“They were amazed at how cold it was up here,” Wright said.

On Saturday, NDSU and JMU will mix again, only this time inside the warm Fargodome.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia