FARGO - It was about year ago when Omaha Creighton Prep quarterback Easton Stick and his coach got in a car after a Friday night game and made the drive to Fargo for an unofficial recruiting visit. Before going to the North Dakota State football game, they stopped downtown.

It wasn’t for a donut and juice.

It was the big enchilada of exposure for college football coaches: Getting ESPN’s “College GameDay” in their backyard. What Stick saw was something he didn’t expect, he said.

“Just the passion - people hanging out of windows and people on roof tops, it stuck with me,” he said. “For me, it reaffirmed what I heard about the community and the culture.”

That reaffirmation expanded to the point that he verbally committed to NDSU a month later and signed his letter of intent early February. At the time of his visit during “GameDay,” Stick was still talking with other schools and still lining up campus visits.

He was a highly recruited player who was getting constant attention from most of the FCS schools in the Midwest. He got some FBS looks, getting a reported offer from the University of Akron in the Mid-American Conference.

Bison assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Nick Goeser said it’s hard to measure the impact “GameDay” has on landing players to NDSU or if the show is a deal maker for a recruit. But, he said, put it this way: It doesn’t hurt.

“Anytime we can showcase Fargo and show ‘GameDay’ and NDSU athletics, no doubt it’s a positive,” Goeser said. “It’s certainly something we highlighted. Anytime we talked to a kid or called a kid on the phone, you mention ‘GameDay’ was here on Saturday. It was a big part of our recruiting and it helped us in the long run.”

More help is on the way this weekend - the show is returning to Fargo for a second straight year. It will be only the sixth time ‘GameDay’ will broadcast from a non-FBS site since the show took its extravaganza on the road starting in 1993.

The other three FCS sites - Penn, Southern vs. Grambling and Florida A&M - were not chosen mainly because of a success within the division, which is the case with NDSU. The Bison are coming off three straight FCS national titles and are carrying a 26-game winning streak into the home opener against University of the Incarnate Word on Saturday.

ESPN has said repeatedly the enthusiastic downtown scene of last year’s show played a huge factor in coming back.

“For it to come to an FCS school two years in a row, that’ all you need to know about the culture of the community in Fargo,” Stick said. “Guys coming up this weekend or even guys that don’t get a chance to come up, just understand there’s a reason it’s coming back.”

Goeser said NDSU is expecting at least 15 to 20 recruits on Saturday, although since most of them are labeled “unofficial visits,” the school is limited how it can showcase “GameDay.” For instance, it is not allowed to bus recruits downtown to check out the scene.

But it’s probably a safe bet that most if not all will find their way down there. Goeser said all of the recruits have been informed either by email or phone, or both, on the weekend details of “GameDay.”

“I was already leaning toward NDSU a lot but having ‘GameDay’ there was just incredible,” said Bison freshman Greg Menard, who this time last year was a high school player in Lakeville, Minn.

Did “GameDay” sway his decision? It certainly didn’t hurt.

Kolpack is a sports writer

at the Fargo Forum

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