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Larsen talks about NDSU's success at Men's Night Out

NDSU's Athletics Director Matt Larsen addresses the crowd in attendance at Perham Health's Men's Night Out at the Prairie Wind Middle School. Jason Groth/FOCUS

North Dakota State University’s Athletics Director Matt Larsen addressed a contingent of Bison faithful about the school’s success, finances and the question of moving the football team to the Football Bowl Subdivision from the Football Championship Division during the annual Men’s Night Out event on April 10 at the Prairie Wind Middle School.

Larsen was the keynote speaker at the annual event put on by Perham Health. He followed a presentation from Matt Nelson, who talked about the aging athlete. Nelson is a part of the Sanford Orthopedics and touched on the many different injuries that can hamper athletes as they get older.

Matt Nelson

The annual Men’s Night Out event opens with more than 30 health services booths where people can win prizes, get their blood pressure checked and learn about many different health issues facing men.

Larsen said he wanted to answer two of the biggest questions he gets during his three-plus years as athletics director of the bison, which is what are the keys to the Bison’s success across the board and why don’t the Bison make the jump up in football?

When addressing why NDSU is so successful across the board, Larsen said when you look at successful businesses you need good leadership and he said that starts with the president of the university, it starts with the leaders of the teams and the coaches as well as the people who raise money for the university. He talked about the expectations, investments and personnel needed in place to proceed with the plan.

“You need to have a vision and a plan. I think with any successful organization, you need to have a road map of where you are going to go to be successful and to be able to reach your goals,” Larsen said. “You have to have people that are passionate about your institution and your company or whatever it is.”

Larsen added if you have those things in place with great people, you have to give them the resources that you need to be successful.

“To me, that has been the secret recipe at NDSU,” Larsen said. “We have provided the resources and we have incredible, incredible people. I am very fortunate, I get to work with 100 staff members, 50 percent coaches, 50 percent administrators and 425 student-athletes. I would not trade one of them. You talk about the quality of the person, the integrity, character, work ethic, passion, sacrifice and you name it, that’s why NDSU is successful, it’s because of the people that we have.”

Larsen commented on the school’s 26 national championships across six sports as well as the 59 individual national championships and the countless conference championships. He said there are high expectations at NDSU.

He said when they recruit athletes at NDSU, he said they let them know that they expect to win national championships. Larsen shared an email from a fan after NDSU was defeated by Montana during the FCS Kick-Off special on ESPN on Aug. 29, 2015. The email blasted the team and the coaching staff, saying they would not win a fifth straight championship. The Bison quickly proved the emailer wrong when they defeated Jacksonville State in 2016.

Larsen addressed the improvement in facilities on the campus and then addressed the crowd about the question that many have asked the Bison about making the step up to the FBS level from the FCS level for its football program. Larsen said he is constantly asked why they are not in the FBS after defeating Iowa and winning eight of their last nine games against FBS opponents.

“When you look on any given Saturday, I would put our team up against anybody. I don’t care, Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and you name it. I know we can compete,” Larsen said. “The problem, I think a lot of people don’t realize, is all the other stuff that goes into FBS football.”

Larsen said they would have to add 22 additional scholarships for the football program and would have to add another women’s sport to match those additional scholarship since they are currently maxed out for women’s sports.

Currently, the NDSU athletic budget sits at $22.1 million, while the average of team’s in Big Ten, Big 12 and the SEC sit well over 100 million dollars.

“In my four years that I have been here I have seen 12 of them and in the last seven years, we have seen 21 of them. We have had 21 straight playoff games in the Fargodome,” Larsen said. “For a fan base that’s incredibly supportive, to be able to have them get to watch their team play at home in the playoffs for a national championship is pretty special. Twenty-six team national championships and 251 conference championships, I know our fan base and our fan base wants to compete for a national championship.”

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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