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Kolpack:NDSU has ESPN honorary residents now

FARGO — The North Dakota State winter commencement is at 4 p.m. today at the Bison Sports Arena. We’re not sure of this, but rumor has it ESPN is going to televise the graduation ceremony live.

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Why not? It’s been that kind of four months for the school when it comes to its national exposure. Remember when former university president Joe Chapman pushed NDSU to move to Division I back in 2002? One of the reasons was the hope of getting North Dakota State on the ESPN score ticker.

Suffice to say, Bison football is no longer the hicks from the sticks.

They are the media version of that cute little puppy that the kids got for Christmas. It started on Aug. 30 as one of the debut games on Fox Sports 1 against Kansas State that drew over a half a million viewers, according to the network.

That victory against the defending Big 12 Conference champions continues to have staying power. ESPN “College GameDay” was here, and that show continues to follow the team through Twitter or isolated blurbs on the air.

Exposure in Fargo in December used to automatically mean somebody has frostbite. Now it means a national network is in town. Ticker schmicker, NDSU is being portrayed this year as an actual real-life breathing Division I university.

We, living in Fargo, are now cool, even if we’re freezing. The “College GameDay” production was priceless in that it was probably the first time in national network history that Fargo was not stereotyped as a community of 500 people living a few miles south of the Arctic Circle.

“I think ‘GameDay’ changed how everything is perceived,” said Jeremy Jorgenson, NDSU’s director of broadcasting.

Yes, we are somebody. If you’re living in Silicon Valley, Boulder, Chicago or Central Park and you want a hip stocking stuffer? Get a North Dakota State T-shirt.

The NDSU helmet continues to have a presence on ESPN’s “SVP & Russillo” show with Scott Van Pelt. One of the on-air producers on the “Dan Patrick Show” has worn an NDSU T-shirt.

ESPN reporter Cara Capuano, who’s been here so many times that she’s simply known as Cara, said in a tweet this week she likes Sammy’s Pizza on Broadway and put the hashtag #HonoraryFargoResident after it.

If you believe Wikipedia, her nickname is “Cappy,” but I’m not sure Fargo is that tight with her yet to be on a nickname basis.

Last week, NDSU was on the main ESPN channel in a quarterfinal game that is usually reserved for the online ESPN3 videocast. That probably wouldn’t have happened if Kirk, Desmond, Lee, Chris and the “GameDay” crew didn’t have the great experience that they did.

Tonight, in the semifinal game against New Hampshire, it will be on ESPN2. There are football programs out there bigger than NDSU that would kill for that kind of Entertainment and Sports Programming Network action.

By virtue of hiring Craig Bohl, the University of Wyoming is getting more ESPN love than it ever did during the season. Every time the camera is on Bohl, the Wyoming connection takes notice.

“These main ESPN channel games are huge,” Jorgenson said. “It’s common for the sports fan to look for content on ESPN so you get a lot of casual viewers. You’re always going to get the diehards, but ESPN brings in a lot of casual viewers looking for a football game to watch.”

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

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.