- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Four Division I colleges in North and South Dakota are holding signing day parties for football and other sports. Only one is charging for the event.

Such are the benefits of three-time Football Championship Subdivision winner North Dakota State, whose fans not only filled three-fourths of the stadium for the FCS title game in Frisco, Texas, they sold out a 10,000-seat baseball stadium for a pre-game party the night before.

High school athletes from around the country will sign NCAA letters of intent Wednesday, a day that die-hard college football fans view like the NFL draft. Coaches are prohibited to talk officially about their recruits before they sign, so the day offers some intrigue.

Fans of Bison nation will pay $25 apiece for the recap, along with a buffet dinner.

NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said the fee essentially covers the cost of the party, which will be held in the ballroom of a Fargo hotel, but it’s another way to market the school and its athletic program. Major donors and season-ticket holders are invited.

“We will have a very good crowd,” Taylor said Tuesday. “Obviously it has grown, just with the success we have had.”

The University of North Dakota is holding its party at the Alerus Center, the indoor football stadium and conference center in Grand Forks. South Dakota State coaches will review the day’s events with their fans at Cubby’s Sports Bar and Grill in downtown Brookings. Both parties are free.

University of South Dakota coach Joe Glenn and his staff is dividing up their time with Coyotes fans, many of whom live outside the Vermillion area. He’s planning Wednesday events at the Old Lumber Company in Vermillion and Minerva’s in Yankton. On Thursday the USD coaches will have lunch with the folks at the Pizza Ranch in Sioux Falls.

South Dakota State athletic director Justin Sell said NDSU’s ability to charge for the signing day soiree shows how much fans value the program, but it’s not likely to happen in Brookings. SDSU officials want “everybody to be able to come and just enjoy hanging out,” he said.

“NDSU fans are absolutely behind their football program, 100 percent all in. They’ve proven that by filling the dome every Saturday when they have a home game and travelling like they do on the road,” Sell said. “It’s one of those unique groups when you look at the FCS level.”

Sell said interest in the Jackrabbits, who reached the second round of FCS playoffs for the second straight year, and donations are at an all-time high. That includes three separate gifts of $10 million apiece in the last 18 months.

“There’s just general excitement about where we’re at,” he said.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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