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Eric Peterson, Published August 29 2013

Bison green and gold flood Kansas State Alumni Center on eve of big game

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Alumni Center has a limestone exterior like most of the buildings on the Kansas State University campus, but the interior of the building was flooded with green and gold Thursday night.

North Dakota State University hosted a social on the eve of arguably the highest-profile game in its football program’s history.

The two-time defending Division I FCS national champion Bison play Kansas State at 7:30 tonight at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Wildcats, an FBS program, are coming off a season that saw them play in a BCS bowl game.

Bison fans created a unique scene on campus, said Lauren Chard, the K-State Alumni Center manager. Chard had never seen an opposing team have this large of event the night before game.

“We’ve never had anything like this before,” Chard said. “This is not very typical for us.”

The Alumni Center looks out onto old Memorial Stadium, which was Kanas State’s home field until 1967. The stadium had new turf and a running track installed this fall and is now used for intramural and club sports.

Sherri Schmidt, the NDSU Alumni Association director, estimated the crowd in the Alumni Center would be near 1,000 fans by the end of Thursday evening. A large ballroom was flooded with Bison fans and had two big screens that showed team highlights from last season.

“I feel like it’s kind of a mini national championship, so I’m really excited to be here and follow the team down,” said Twila Moser, an NDSU senior who is also on the women’s track team.

Moser, who was wearing a yellow Bison T-shirt, made the trip to Kansas with her parents, sister and brother-in-law. She also traveled to Frisco, Texas, last January for the national championship game.

“I think it’s just another big game,” said Moser, who is from Bismarck. “It’s a good team to play.”

Jeff and Jeanie Volk hope tonight’s football game is the start of a big weekend. They flew into Manhattan on Thursday and are scheduled to fly back to Fargo on Saturday morning.

“We can be at the lake and skiing by 3,” said Jeff Volk, who is from West Fargo. “It can’t get any better that.”

The Volks are NDSU graduates and have been at the past two national championship games. They were also at NDSU’s 22-7 victory at Colorado State last season.

“It’s just fun traveling and supporting them and meeting other people,” Jeanie Volk said. “It’s almost like a fever. People pick it up and it’s just exciting.”

Wes Burnett, an 86-year-old who recently moved to Salina, Kan., became a Bison fan around 16 years ago when his daughter, Ann Burnett, started teaching at NDSU. Wes has grown to enjoy the team’s fan base.

“I find that the crowd is the most unusual collection of characters I’ve seen anywhere,” Burnett said. “Nobody from any other university is as nutty as this bunch. They thoroughly enjoy what they are doing and they put their soul into it.”

The Bison set up their own merchandise area in the K-State Alumni Center, selling items such as pennants, T-shirts, foam fingers and three-piece grilling utensil sets.

Schmidt anticipates 4,000 Bison fans will be in Manhattan today for the game.

“I have not been to one football game yet where the opposing team has not been surprised by our fans,” Schmidt said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com