If North Dakota State's football hadn't won back-to-back national championships and wasn't playing a good Big 12 team in its first game of the season, the condition of the Bison's practice field wouldn't have caught my eye. But the Bison are trying for their third straight Football Championship Subdivision title in 2013 and they are playing Kansas State, a perennial top 25 team, on Aug. 30. So the under-construction look of the team's practice fields just south of the Bison Sports Arena did catch my eye.
One of NDSU's football practice fields is in the midst of construction.
The Bison's practice facility consists of three side-by-side-by-side fields. They've historically been grass-covered. Currently, the middle field is torn up and will be finished with AstroTurf to give coach Craig Bohl's team the option of practicing on artificial grass. The Bison's home-field at the Fargodome is AstroTurf and, given Fargo's climate, practicing outdoors on grass isn't always the best option. So having a fake-grass practice makes sense.
Problem is, the field isn't finished yet and the Bison begin fall practice in less than 2 weeks.
Will it be ready? And will it affect the Bison's preparation for Kansas State?
"We are preparing for backup plans," athletic director Gene Taylor said in an e-mail. "The two grass fields could be used as well as Dacotah Field. We should be fine if the installation is not finished by the first day of practice, but it won't be ideal."
Dacotah Field is the former home field of Bison football and the current home of Bison soccer. It has an artifical surface.
Taylor said weather issues delayed work on the practice field.
"With the late spring and the June rain we received the ground was too wet to work on. When the ground finally dried enough the contractor was slow getting to our job," Taylor said. "AstroTurf will be sending a double crew to install the turf beginning on Thursday. They are estimating six to 10 days. We shall see on that estimation."
In the end, the Bison will be able to practice and whether or not they have their artificial surface ready by the opening gun will have little to do with whether or not they defeat Kansas State. But, football coaches are known to be incredibly uptight about such things and prefer to have strict organization and airtight plans once practice starts. I haven't talked with Bohl about this, but I'm guessing he would not disagree with that assessment.
Is this even a minor story if the Bison weren't the championship team they are? And if they were opening against Ferris State instead of Kansas State. No and No. But that is not life in the current Bison fish bowl.