A North Dakota State Championship Win Saturday Puts Bison in Rarefied Air

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Saturday in Frisco, Texas, North Dakota State faces Illinois State with the Football Championship Subdivision title at stake.

A Bison win doesn’t just cement the North Dakota State football program’s place as the greatest dynasty in the history of the subdivision, surpassing Appalachian State’s run of three straight championships from 2005 through 2007.

Four consecutive titles etches North Dakota State in the annals of all of sports history.

Just how significant is the Bison’s pursuit of championship No. 4?

Ask Florida State. The Seminoles learned how difficult repeating as national champion is in Div. I college football this season, losing to Oregon in last week’s Rose Bowl, 59-20.

Perhaps Nick Saban can offer some insight. Three years of work toward a trifecta of championships can end in a matter of seconds, as Alabama discovered with the Kick-Six in 2013.

Winning four straight championships? Forget college football; go to Michael Jordan or Derek Jeter for context on just how monumental an accomplishment that is.

One must go rewind all the way to 1983 for the last four-peat in any major, team sport, when the New York Islanders hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup for the fourth straight season.

As far as Division I college football, here’s the company North Dakota State joins with a win:

• Michigan: 1901-1904

• Yale: 1880-1884

• Princeton: 1872-1875; 1877-1881

And given Yale and Princeton split championships for the Elis’ and the second of the Tigers’ runs, North Dakota State would essentially become just one of three teams ever to truly stand as champions four straight times.

Given no team has done it since the forward pass was introduced to the game, it’s fair to label this run the greatest of all-time in college football history.

What’s fascinating — and perhaps explains the program’s success — is how matter-of-fact all associated with North Dakota State football seem to be about it.

As head coach Chris Klieman pointed out in Monday’s press conference, via ASAP Sports, playing for championships is ingrained in the program.

“If you’re a senior like Colten Heagle or Christian Dudzik, it’s all you know,” he said. “You came here as a freshman and you’ve played in January every year.”

To paraphrase the immortal words of Jeff Spicoli: At North Dakota State, winning championships is a way of life; no hobby.

It’s a way of looking at all challengers and saying, ‘Hey bud! Let’s party!’

The Bison are certainly accustomed to partying in Frisco, though there’s interesting irony of this year’s North Dakota State team facing a counterpart from its own conference.

In each of the last four seasons, North Dakota State has lost three games:

• Nov. 12, 2011: 27-24 at Youngstown State

• Oct. 13, 2012: 17-14 vs. Indiana State

• Nov. 8, 2014: 23-3 at Northern Iowa

All three are members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

Illinois State and North Dakota State did not meet in the regular season, which Redbirds head coach Brock Spack said had his team cheering a little more heartily for the Bison throughout the Playoffs.

I can tell you that the whole football team and the whole football program was cheering for North Dakota State because we wanted to play a Missouri Valley team, and we didn’t play each other. We tied for the championship, and this is the way to settle, I guess.

Indeed, this is a de facto way to settle the true champion of the MVFC. But you’ll have to forgive me if, from my perspective, Saturday’s affair is more about settling North Dakota State’s place in sports lore.