McFeely Weblog: Bison Soccer Video games in Vegas, Dallas … or wherever followers will go
The big news on Tuesday May 25th was that the Ducks and Bison have postponed their abandonment date and will meet in Eugene in 2028.
It’s hard to get upset about something this far away, especially when the college athletics landscape is as fluid as it is right now. Players who would be real newbies to this game are currently finishing fifth grade, Redshirt newbies in sixth grade, and possible transfers to FBS in seventh grade.
An equally interesting tidbit was spotted by WDAY-TV’s Dom Izzo, whom NDSU assistant sports director Todd Phelps said the bison are exploring so-called “target” games in places like Dallas or Las Vegas.
“We’re going to look in and out of the region and make sense to our fan base in Dallas or Las Vegas. We are open to opportunities and ideas to generate revenue like we did with Target Field,” said Phelps.
Target Field was a reference to NDSU’s 2019 game against Butler in the home of the MLB Minnesota Twins in downtown Minneapolis. It attracted nearly 35,000 bison fans and grossed more than $ 565,000 in sales for the sports department.
That success led the bison to attempt to schedule a game for 2023 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Eastern Washington has agreed to play this game in principle, but the details have yet to be worked out.
NDSU sports director Matt Larsen announced in March that some large stadiums in key markets had contacted the bison after the Target Field game to gauge their interest in playing target games. Larsen told me NDSU wasn’t interested “because those places didn’t make much sense to us”.
North Dakota State opened its football season on Saturday, August 31, against Butler at Target Field in Minneapolis. Staple Hemmel Yarn / Minnesota Twins
The venues were interested in NDSU because bison fans travel so well and there is money to make from fan bases that travel.
“I think the game at Target Field showed that we are different from many other schools because we can bring close to 35,000 fans,” said Larsen in March. “That is valuable, which has not been lost in the other venues that have reached us.”
Either the previous phone calls weren’t from Vegas or Dallas, or the NDSU honchos looked at their 2020 balance sheet and decided that targeting games in far-flung places that can make money is a better idea than initially thought.
Makes sense. With NDSU struggling to get high-paying games against FBS opponents into the books, games at Texas Rangers Stadium, Dallas Cowboys Stadium, or Las Vegas Raiders Stadium, located in a long pass from Mandalay Bay, could play the next best option would be on the strip.
Anything sounds better than a date against Valparaiso or Albany in front of a three-quarter Fargodome on a fine September Saturday, which could happen this fall.
NDSU football has reached the point where fans want more than the same thing, the same thing. Fans showed little interest in the ill-advised FCS spring season that followed in 2019 after low-capacity attendance for late-season games. The bison had an epic team this season with a quarterback that was worth the price of admission alone. and yet there were thousands of free places for two playoff games before the semifinals.
Where would you like to see NDSU plan its first “target” soccer game outside of Minneapolis?
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It would of course be best if the bison could miraculously make the jump to FBS and the Mountain West conference. That would immediately spark interest in the program, as games against Power Five schools are easier to plan, biennial trips to Vegas and San Diego, and a new home game schedule against MWC teams.
That remains a moon shot, even if some of us won’t stop dreaming about it.
In the meantime, games in Vegas and Dallas could be the best substitutes.
And how about Phoenix? Nashville? Orlando? Tampa? San Diego?
Take the show to the streets. Add some fun to the fans, make some cash, expand the recruiting footprint, and build “the brand”.
Perhaps the mountain west should see what is missing.
Then maybe the 2028 game against Oregon is a matchup between the Pac 12 and the MWC instead of the Pac 12 and the FCS.