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Having played soccer, Bresciani now a strong supporter for Bison women

NDSU President Dean Bresciani holds a replica nickel near the Bison locker room after the game Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, on Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO—Before he started his path into higher education, Dean Bresciani was making some moves on the soccer field. The North Dakota State president even reached the semi-pro level, before he realized a fact of life: He wasn't fast enough.

But that didn't mean his affinity for the game diminished. Bresciani has been a big supporter of the Bison women's program, which hosts the Summit League tournament starting Thursday, Nov. 2, against South Dakota State.

Bresciani has been known to peer into NDSU practices and would get the following question: "'What are you doing here?'" he said, quoting somebody else. "'Nobody watches soccer practices except the parents.' I enjoy the game. It's fun at the collegiate level, the pace is pretty brisk and they're doing things that from a 1970s complexity of play, I don't know we were thinking at that level."

Watching and observing—that's the extent of his involvement with the soccer program, however. Head coach Mark Cook said he's never sensed any involvement from Bresciani in terms of coaching or strategy.

"President Bresciani is a great supporter of the program, but we've never sat down and talked about how we were playing," Cook said. "So there's no added pressure there."

Bresciani grew up near Napa, Calif. Because his family was in the cattle business and he lived in the country, and the fact he went to a smaller Catholic school, he said there were limited options for athletics. By the time he got to public school in junior high, the other kids had been playing football for several years, so he went searching for something else.

He took up soccer, and found some success at the junior high and high school level.

"Then I made the mistake of skipping directly to semi-pro," Bresciani said. "I was slow and unskilled on the field. I wasn't nearly as good as I thought."

The era was also different, a time when soccer in America was in its infant stages. Most of the players in Bresciani's semi-pro league, which consisted of teams in the San Francisco area, were from other countries.

"The American kids had not been playing soccer that long," he said. "There were maybe one or two from the high school team good enough to play at that level. I wasn't one of them."

Bresciani played halfback in high school, was moved to fullback at semi-pro and eventually finished at goalkeeper.

"They kept moving me back where you could be slower," he said.

The Bison will be making their ninth straight appearance in the four-team tournament. Denver and Oral Roberts open the tourney at 11:30 a.m. followed by the top-seeded Jackrabbits against the fourth-seeded Bison at 2:30 p.m. The matches will be played at Dacotah Field, a facility that Bresciani supported in terms of a renovation for soccer.

NDSU formerly played at Ellig track and field complex. That was not a Division I soccer venue, Bresciani said.

"And also part of soccer that makes it exciting is the fans being close to the play," he said. "When you have a track separating you from the field, fans might just as well be watching it on TV. The Division I soccer venues I'm used to have the fans right on top of the field."

The Bison will need every advantage they can find against the Jacks, who beat NDSU 4-0 last week. Before that, the Bison won seven of eight to get into the playoff picture.

"I think we're comfortable here, we like the surface," Cook said. "Playing on a quality surface allows us to play the game we're capable of playing."

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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