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Schnepf: Bison fans jump on chance for FCS deal

FARGO -- Earlier this month, tickets went on sale for next January's FCS championship game in Frisco, Texas. You know, the game North Dakota State's football team has won the last two years.

But these tickets weren't just for the Jan. 4 game. It was a package deal for the next three FCS title games. It was set up more to give the locals in Frisco a chance to reserve a seat for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

What happened during the first couple days of sales may have surprised some organizers in Frisco. But not Frisco Mayor Maher Maso.

"During those first few days, clearly, there was a high level of activity from Fargo fans," Maso said. "They were the No. 1 purchasers. But it was no surprise to a lot of us. We are used to that passion and good frenzy now."

You can credit two national championships for such fury, which will be on display once again on one of the biggest stages the Bison football program has ever stepped on. Nearly 4,000 Bison fans are expected to be tailgating in the hot Kansas sun Friday in preparation for the 6:30 p.m. season opener against Kansas State.

A solid FBS program for years, Kansas State flirted with a national championship last season. That's why Friday night's game has been a sellout for quite some time.

But that hasn't stopped Bison fans from finding tickets. After the allotted 2,500 tickets were gobbled up, Bison fans relied on ticket-exchange websites, the NDSU Alumni Association's blog site announcing tickets for sale, or friends in Kansas who happen to have tickets.

"I've heard a lot of people are going down without tickets," NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said, referring to the 530-mile drive. If they are willing to pay as much as $165, those fans could get tickets on StubHub.

When it comes to finding tickets high in demand, North Dakota State football fans have become a very resourceful lot. They have been that way ever since many of them got blindsided without tickets before the first FCS title game.

Take, for example, last season when University of South Dakota officials announced a package deal for the Bison game in Sioux Falls and the Colgate game in Vermillion. Nearly as many Bison fans jumped on those tickets as Coyotes fans.

Take, for example, the last FCS title game against Sam Houston State. Some clever Bison fans figured out if they sign up and pay to become a Sam Houston booster club member, they could have access to some of those FCS title tickets.

This year's three-year ticket package has already sold out. When tickets for only the Jan. 4 title game went on sale Wednesday, it took only about an hour for it to sell out.

According to J.D. Hamilton of the NCAA, 10,000 of the more than 20,000 tickets have already been sold. The remaining 10,000 will be allocated to the two title-game teams. He said 30 percent of the tickets sold were the three-year ticket package, while the remaining 70 percent were single-game tickets sold Wednesday.

"I do not have specific numbers, but I know there was a great interest from North Dakota," Hamilton said.

Interest that will be displayed tonight when as many as 2,000 fans are expected to attend NDSU's get together at the K-State Alumni Center.

That number will most likely double when Bison fans congregate for Friday's tailgating on grass lots next to the K-State Department of Animal Sciences and Industry's Stanly Stout Center. It's about a mile from the stadium.

"Their athletic director told me they never anticipated the demand for tickets would be so high," Taylor said.

"I think ... no, I know ... we will surprise them with how well our fans travel," said NDSU Alumni Association director Sherri Schmidt.

"Nothing surprises me with those fans anymore," said Frisco's Maso.

Schnepf is the sports editor at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum News Service.