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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 17 2012

Longtime Bison athletic trainer Isrow passes

FARGO – North Dakota State won a big football game Friday night, but lost a legend just over a day later who was like a founding father of the school’s success.

Longtime athletic trainer Denis Isrow died early Sunday morning after a battle with cancer.

Isrow was 78 years old and saw the rise of NDSU’s athletic department in the 1960s to what it is today.

“They can say everybody did this, but there was one guy who was there for it all,” said former Bison wrestling coach Bucky Maughan, who came to NDSU at about the same time Isrow did. “He helped everybody become successful in their sports. He’s more special than anybody or any coach who got headlines. The guy making it all work was Izzy.”

Isrow came to NDSU from Adams State (Colo.) in 1963 with head football coach Darrell Mudra, a program that Mudra started on its way to nine national championships. Isrow began the NDSU athletic training program in 1968.

“He was Mr. Bison all the way,” Maughan said.

Last year, the training facility at the Fargodome was renamed the Dr. Denis “Izzy” Isrow Bison Athletic Training Room. He is given credit for coining the phrases “Bison pride” and “Once a Bison, always a Bison.”

“They still stand today and they will live on forever,” said Scott Woken, NDSU’s director of athletic performance.

Isrow was the first athletic trainer in the state of North Dakota, who Woken said was a mentor for hundreds of student trainers that went through NDSU.

“He never gave up on anybody,” Woken said. “He was a driven man that instilled that in all of us. He got things out of people that people thought they never had.”

Isrow retired from teaching in 2002 after working as Associate Division Director of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics (1981) and as a professor in the College of Human Development and Education, but he never left the university. He was named Professor Emeritus serving as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) coordinator at NDSU, and worked with Bison student-athletes through the Athletic Academic Program. He got his master’s degree from NDSU in 1965 and his doctorate from the University of Utah in 1975.

Maughan, when reached Sunday night, said he spent most of the day fielding phone calls from former athletes, coaches and administrators.

An ex-Marine, Isrow was known for being tough when he wanted to be. When an athlete was in his training room, Maughan said, it was either follow his rules or leave.

“And then he could be the kindest, easy-going guy that would do anything for anybody,” Maughan said.

He was elected to the North Central Conference Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Bison Hall of Fame in 1990 and the National Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame in 1995.

Funeral arrangements were still pending as of Sunday night. He is survived by his wife, Geraldine, two sons and two daughters.

“We will miss Izzy a great deal,” said NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor. “He had such an impact on our programs in so many ways and he touched the lives of countless individuals that will always remember him with fondness. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gerry and his children and all who will miss him.”

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia