Monday's Bison football team White House visit will be a long day
FARGO — North Dakota State University assistant football coach Grant Olson is a self-described history fan, a college engineering major who enjoyed reading about Reagan or Kennedy as a student just as much as calculating a formula. He’ll get an up-close view of his hobby on Monday, March 4.
Olson will be part of a plane-full of NDSU football players, staff and guests that will fly to Washington D.C. to take part in a ceremony with President Donald Trump to honor NDSU’s 2018 NCAA Division I FCS national championship. Trump, at the urging of North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, last month invited the Bison to the White House.
“There are so many cool things that I’m looking forward to,” Olson said. “I find that stuff so fascinating.”
It’s going to be a long day; buses will depart the Fargodome at 2:45 a.m. for Hector International Airport for the 4:30 a.m. scheduled departure to Dulles International Airport.
“I think we’re ready for it,” said NDSU assistant coach Randy Hedberg. “I think this is big time and I know our players are excited about it.”
NDSU is scheduled to meet with Trump at 11:30 a.m. (EST) at the White House Rose Garden. In January, when Trump met with FBS national champion Clemson, he took a few minutes for some friendly banter with the Tiger players, most notably pointing out freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
NDSU will present Trump with two items, one presumably the traditional gift of a team jersey with the president’s name on the back.
“It’s exciting, we’re just trying to make sure our kids understand what the itinerary looks like and where they need to be and when they need to be there,” said Bison head coach Matt Entz, “so that we can move as effortlessly as we can through the day.”
The NDSU traveling party consists of the 108 players that finished the season at the Division I FCS national title game in Frisco, Texas, and two players who joined the team after Christmas: transfer quarterback Zeb Noland from Iowa State and early high school graduate Griffin Crosa, a kicker from Powell, Ohio.
“Grif and Zeb were both like, 'Coach, if you don’t take us, it’s fine, we understand,'” Entz said. “When they both presented it like that, it made me believe we probably got the right guys and we should take them then.”
No players opted out for political reasons, unlike the Clemson visit when several Tigers, in a way of showing displeasure for Trump, decided against attending the ceremony.
“We addressed it,” Entz said. “This isn’t a political trip, this is a Bison trip and, personally, I sold it as two things: It’s one more opportunity for the 2018 team to be together, but also in my mind the start of the 2019 season and the things we’re going to do together.”
The players include former quarterback Easton Stick, who planned to fly back from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this weekend to take the Bison charter to Dulles. None of the coaches who went with former Bison head coach Chris Klieman to Kansas State or Klieman himself will be part of the trip.
Some new staff members like Olson, defensive coordinator David Braun, running backs coach Dan Larson and wide receivers coach Noah Pauley are going. In total, 46 non-players are making the trip, including coaches, athletics department personnel and President Dean Bresciani.
“We sold it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we’re taking,” Entz said. “I want to make this as great of an experience of being part of Bison football as possible.”
The experience includes a tour and lunch at the Capitol hosted by Hoeven. The players will have 2½ hours late in the afternoon to visit monuments or tourist sites.
“For me, personally, the No. 1 thing is just the team being together,” Entz said. “It’s probably watching our players as they experience something that some of them probably have never been a part of before. It’s seeing (running back) Ty Brooks walk into the White House and just knowing that in 10 years from now he’s going to be able to tell his family, his friends, that, yeah, I went to the White House with my football team.”
2:45 a.m.: Depart for airport
3 .m.: Security at airport
4:30 a.m.: Depart for Dulles International Airport
8 a.m.: Arrive in Washington D.C.
8:15 a.m.: Depart for White House
10:15 a.m.: Security at White House
11:30 a.m.: Picture with President Trump
Noon: White House tour (East Wing/State Floor)
12:35 p.m.: Load bus
12:40 p.m.: Depart for Capitol
12:45 p.m.: Arrive at Capitol
1:30 p.m.: Lunch at Capitol
2:20 p.m.: Tour/picture at Capitol
4 p.m.: Bus outside of Capitol/free time to visit monuments
6:30 p.m.: Assemble at Lincoln Memorial
6:40 p.m.: Depart for Dulles International Airport
9 p.m.: Depart for Fargo
11 p.m.: Arrive in Fargo