By Joe Scalzo
Like many schools, North Dakota State seats its students behind the visiting team’s sideline, giving opposing players a chance to mingle with their peers, make some new friends and, maybe, discover things about their mothers’ nocturnal behavior.
“The fans are right there in your ear,” said YSU senior Aronde Stanton, whose team plays at NDSU this Saturday. “You try to play it off like you don’t hear them during the game but after the game we talk about it and say what they were saying to us and all that other stuff.”
So? What do they say?
“Aw, it’s not things I can say,” Stanton said, chuckling.
North Dakota State is one of three Missouri Valley Football Conference teams that use a dome, along with Northern Iowa and South Dakota.
Surprisingly, just seven Division I football teams use domes. Syracuse (whose 50,000-seat Carrier Dome is the largest in college football) and Idaho are the lone FBS teams with domes, while Northern Arizona and North Dakota are the other FCS schools.
While the 19,000 seat Fargodome — which isn’t even a dome since the roof is triangular — isn’t in the top 30 among FCS stadiums in capacity, it’s one of the top when it comes to noise, due to a combination of rabid fans (the Bison have already sold out every home game this season) and the dome walls.
Senior running back Jamaine Cook said it’s not the loudest place he’s played at — Cook has played at Penn State, Michigan State and Pitt (twice) — but it’s the most hostile.
“Their fans are pretty crazy up there,” said Cook, who won at the Fargodome in 2009 and 2011. “They’ll say anything to you to try to get you out of your game. They’ll throw things at you. It’s a great environment.
“[But] once you get there on the field, you kind of forget about everything and just play football.”
YSU will practice indoors this week and coach Eric Wolford is pumping in music to get his players used to the noise and working with a silent count on offense.
“The crowd’s on you; that’s part of the atmosphere,” said Wolford. “That’s something that you enjoy. I think you have to take that crowd and that noise and their energy and channel it into your body. There’s nothing better than playing in a hostile environment and going out and making plays.
“It’s games like this that you come to Youngstown State for.”