Campus Tour Stop #10; University of North Dakota
The 10th stop on my College Tour was to Grand Forks, North Dakota to visit the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. This was the most intriguing stop on my travels, and I wasn’t really sure what I was in for. I’d never been to North Dakota, didn’t know much about the football program or school, and didn’t even know what city it was in. By the 2nd day of my visit, I was calling kids from back home and their parents telling them how great the place was and that I thought they needed to get out to their July camp and see everything in person themselves.
North Dakota competes at the FCS level and is now playing in the Big Sky Conference. It’s on the eastern side of North Dakota and the city it’s in, Grand Forks, actually borders and carries over into Minnesota. On my visit I actually had one day where I watched camp then had lunch on their campus in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and later that night had dinner 15 minutes away from campus in Grand Forks, Minnesota. North Dakota was competing at the Division 2 level up until the early 2000’s, and actually won the Division 2 National Championship in 2001. Since their jump to the FCS level, they have had a lot of success and a lot of winning seasons. Their addition to the Big Sky Conference is huge and will be a very telling story about where the program is at and where it’s headed in the future.
In all my travels on this summer’s College Tour, there’s a history behind where I went and why I went there. North Dakota is no different, as I had a great reason to go. Greg Breitbach is the QB Coach and Offensive Coordinator there. We go back a long ways as he used to coach at Lewis and Clark College for Mike Fanger(new Head Coach at West Linn HS in Oregon)and actually helped coach for my Barton Football Academy when I ran camps there. He was an awesome coach then and is an even better coach now. As North Dakota is joining the Big Sky Conference, they only thought it natural to come and recruit the Northwest now. Coach Breitbach is the coach on their staff responsible for recruiting the Northwest, so we got in touch and have been in constant communication since. He’s done a great job so far in spotting and evaluating talent in this region, and has put out offers to kids that are definitely deserving of them. As we continued to talk about all the different kids in this region, as well as the North Dakota program and what they have to offer, the idea about me coming out there came up and I jumped on it. It would be a great chance to go visit Coach Breitbach in person and also see what North Dakota as a program and school had to offer potential student athletes from the Northwest.
When I landed I was immediately taken aback by the lush scenery. Summertime in North Dakota is beautiful and when I got to campus I was blown away by how nice the buildings, houses, campus, and facilities looked. North Dakota was having their football camp that day, and Coach Breitbach and his staff had just finished up their meetings. He met me in the parking lot and walked me all around their athletic facilities. After about an hour, their camp started so I spent some time in the stands and the rest of the time on the field watching the North Dakota coaches to see how they coached and how they interacted with the players. While on the field, I even met the Head Coach and had a chance to visit with him. Chris Mussman is a very good coach, and an even better person. He’s very personable and friendly, and does a great job representing the school and program of North Dakota. He’s been a very successful coach at every school and level he’s been at, and has North Dakota primed to be a National Powerhouse at the FCS level. After camp coach Breitbach took me on another tour of North Dakota’s Indoor Game Stadium and complex. On the attached footage you’ll see how cool the whole place is. It’s a huge location that houses their Indoor Stadium, Convention Center, Hotel, and Indoor Water Park all next to each other with a massive parking lot to accommodate all the people coming to one or more of the spots. After taking in everything there, we headed to dinner in Minnesota and spent time talking about both football and life. Not many coaches would take the time in the middle of running their summer camp, while also having a family at home, to go to dinner with someone like myself and take up their whole night. But that right there is what makes Greg Breitbach so unique and someone that I would feel totally comfortable with sending any of our Northwest kids out to, knowing they’d be taken care of both on the field and off of it. The next morning Coach Breitbach again met me early and showed me around the UND campus. I’ve been to a lot of campuses all around the country, and this is as good if not better than all of them. If you close your eyes and envision what exactly a college campus and town should look like, open your eyes and look no further than North Dakota. Again, when you watch the attached footage you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. A cool Characteristic of their campus that not many of us in the Northwest are familiar with that UND has is an underground tunnel system. I’m sure in the rainy Northwest at times we wish we had them, but at UND they do and they’re glad they do. In the winter time it gets pretty cold and they deal with a lot of snow. So to combat that, they developed a grid of underground tunnels that connect students anywhere on campus from their dorms to the campus. At one point on the footage you’ll watch, I actually walked down into one of these underground tunnels to give you a look at exactly what they’re like.
Overall I would give North Dakota a solid B. The only thing really holding me back from putting it at an A is the distance. Their facilities are pretty amazing, from their current coaches offices and practice field(was their game field until 2001) to their soon to be built $24 million dollar new football complex. Their game stadium and that entire complex are like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and the campus and city are exactly what anyone could want in a College experience. Their coaching staff is made up of great people that actually care about the kids in the program not only on the field but off it as well. They are playing in the Big Sky Conference now, so at the FCS level you’ll be playing against the best competition that level has to offer. And the icing on the cake for me was a fact that almost slipped through the cracks on my visit, and I was made aware of accidentally in passing by Coach Breitbach at dinner. North Dakota is the only school at the FCS level that has a private, chartered plane for their football team to every away game. No buses or standing in long lines at a commercial airport. The team hopes on the bus from their athletic facilities and heads to a private terminal where they exit the bus and jump right on the plane that only their coaches and teammates are on. If the footage you watched and the write up you read didn’t convince you that North Dakota is big time, then that fact right there should have just sealed the deal.