UND has not had the best results on the football field.The Fighting Hawks finished 3-8 this season. However, Fighting Hawks fans, do not let the record fool you. This program is fully committed to building up its own culture and the past season does not change that.This team has shown it can bounce back even within the season. One example of this is its home win against Northern Colorado after a tough road loss the week prior. The coaching staff has done a relentless marketing job of this program . Below are a few reasons why fans can remain confident in UND and this coaching staff despite the record not being what anyone wanted coming off of a Big Sky Championship.
The Coaching Staff Recruiting Fans and Players Alike
Coaches have to recruit and build the program right? Yes, of course, but one thing that changed out of necessity after the Mussman years was more recruiting not just of players, but of fans.
That has completely changed since Bubba Schweigert became head coach at UND. His entire staff is an incredibly visible presence in the community. Every time I have seen any of them at a hockey game or any other UND event they are always supporting their fellow athletic programs.
In addition, very rare is a Friday before a home game that Bubba does not take a stack of tickets, and head to the quad behind the library and interact with a lot of students, and hand out all of his tickets.
This, in turn, has lead to a complete revitalization of the student section. Now, the students have often helped lead chants and pump up the crowd which has, in-turn caused numerous crowd-induced penalties and timeouts over the years.
Bubba’s staff has turned the Alerus Center back into the tough place to play it once was during UND’s Division Two days.
One final example of this culture change, is Bubba’s assistants helping out. It was quite impressive to see assistant coach Travis Stepps handing out tickets to studying students in the Memorial Union this past Thursday imploring them to come. Everyone on Bubba’s staff has bought into the holistic recruiting that had to take place to win back fans and recruits.
The Next Man Up Mentality
Throughout this year, from star defensive back Deion Harris being out for the season, to losing senior QB Keaton Studsrud for a couple of points in time due to injuries, no one on this team has used injuries as an excuse. The best example of this is at the middle linebacker where it has used more than three players as its projected starters were out due to injury.
Because of these increased reps to all of the backups coming into the season, players like safety Jordan Canady and all of UND’s backup offensive lineman that had to play will be more ready to shoulder the load heading into next season. These tough reps now will pay benefits to UND in the future as it plays a tough independent schedule the next few years before heading into the SEC of FCS Football, the Missouri Valley.
One Final Thing
Fighting Hawks fans, this year has been tough. No one,especially this coaching staff, is happy with a team that finishes 3-8 after winning a championship.
However, as some of you are seeing with the Green Bay Packers, the team looks a bit different without Aaron Rodgers leading things right? Is it fair to say that no matter how good things are with their backups in, that they have to develop and learn their games with reps to improve? I think so, and now Green Bay can have a better setup in the future as they now have had to gameplan without their star.
UND has had that problem with a lot of its positions this year as more than half of its projected starters have not played, or have stopped playing due to injury.
This staff took over a 3-8 program , and lead it to a playoff berth a short three years later. Let’s see what this talented staff of Bubba Schweigert can do in the offseason to bring in some depth in areas of need, and develop its current corps of returners. This program is in a completely different state than it was after its last 3-8 season. Do not let a copious amount of injuries change your mind on that fact.
This past week, Bubba noted his thanks for the atmosphere at the game and how the fans reacted. He lamented that his team could not do enough to keep the fans in the game. For next year, look for more changes from the UND roster to stay competitive with the tough independent schedule it will play.
One thing that will remain the same is the dedicated staff Bubba has to help him sell his vision of day-by-day, tough, hard working football to fans here in Grand Forks. UND fans want to see winning football. This staff has an offseason to bring that back to Grand Forks.