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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 29 2011

Kolpack: $1M turf deal should boost Bison recruiting

It seems hard to believe that the North Dakota State football offices once consumed about half of a short hallway at the Bison Sports Arena. It’s where Rocky Hager slept on a couch in his office, Bob Babich questioned the intelligence of a sports writer who picked against the Bison, and Craig Bohl tried to find space for the increasing number of assistants.

In 2006, the football folks packed their bags and moved to the $3 million new Sunderland Football Office Complex at the Fargodome. It would make Warren Buffett jealous.

Last year, the new Sprinturf practice field was added to the mix. With the old Dacotah Field lights, the Bison no longer needed to bring in portable lights to its dormant grass practice fields in November.

A few weeks ago, athletic director Gene Taylor said he sat down with Bohl and mapped out future needs for the program.

“What do we need to do to keep getting better and better?” Taylor said.

One ingredient was solidified on Thursday. The dome, on the heels of $1 million in naming rights from Gate City Bank, announced final plans for a new Astroturf GameDay 3D playing surface that will be ready by next football season.

“Our concern was at one time the current turf was state of the art but had become obsolete,” Bohl said.

All of these factors with the football program are important for one reason: recruiting.

“It became a recruiting disadvantage to play on the current turf,” Taylor said.

Recruiting is not for the meek. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there in trying to land the best players you can. If your program has a reputation of creating acne on players’ faces, somebody will use it against you.

Recruits like the new offices. Recruits like the new practice field. Recruits like the best game fields.

If you can’t get recruits, you can’t make the title game in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision. For the most part, football is an arms race.

Montana has nice stuff. Georgia Southern has nice stuff. Appalachian State has nice stuff. Northern Iowa has nice stuff.

This is Bohl’s ninth year at NDSU. It’s as if in 2003 he wrote a business plan detailing the needs of being a Division I program. You can’t argue that infrastructure is critical to winning.

It makes the recent success of the men’s basketball program all that more impressive. It is doing it with the aging Bison Sports Arena, a closet for a locker room and the promise of a new facility at some undetermined point.

When the football team takes the field in Frisco, Texas, next weekend, it will do so because of millions of dollars of investment in the program.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia