Bison look to a reborn Indiana State programFARGO — North Dakota State’s last trip to Terre Haute, Ind., was met with a lot of empty space. It only took several minutes to count by hand the number of football fans at Memorial Stadium.
By: Jeff Kolpack, The Dickinson Press
FARGO — North Dakota State’s last trip to Terre Haute, Ind., was met with a lot of empty space. It only took several minutes to count by hand the number of football fans at Memorial Stadium.
It wasn’t very many.
That was in 2009 when Indiana State was still in the beginning stages of a building job that at one time looked hopeless. When athletic director Ron Prettyman came aboard six years ago, he saw a football program that was in the middle of the nation’s longest losing streak.
“It was a little bit in shambles,” he said, in a little bit of an understatement.
Shambles, no more. The Sycamores, ranked 16th in the latest Division I Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll, host top-ranked NDSU on Saturday afternoon in a November game that actually means something in Terre Haute. The 5-3 Sycamores are fighting for an FCS playoff spot.
“You don’t need to add any incentive to play the best team in the nation,” said head coach Trent Miles. “We have the best team in the nation coming to our place. If you have to worry about extra incentives, then you have the wrong guys.”
The dramatic turnaround started with Miles, Prettyman said. A 1987 Indiana State graduate, he played in the program when it was a Division I-A school facing the likes of Tulsa and Wichita State.
It dropped to I-AA while he was still in school.
And it kept dropping.
The 33-game losing streak was finally broken three years ago against Western Illinois. The Sycamores had a 2-54 record from 2005-09. Miles dismissed 41 players in the ‘08 season.
It came at a time when new school president Daniel Bradley, who came aboard a few months after Miles was hired 2008, made a commitment to improve the athletic climate.
A contingent of ISU administrators and city leaders were on hand in 2008 when the Sycamores played in the Fargodome. Their objective on that day was to observe a successful football program.
“The facilities here were pretty much ignored for 15 to 20 years,” Prettyman said. “The current administration has been really supportive and understands the value of a quality athletic program.”
Support has come in the form of dollars – the Sycamores used to have a limited number of out-of-state football scholarships they could offer. Prettyman said the “vast majority” in previous years had to be players from the state of Indiana.
As for facilities, the plan, he said, is to have a new stadium closer to campus in the next eight to 10 years.
“For now, we’re just enjoying the opportunity we have to compete with schools like North Dakota State,” Prettyman said.
Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.