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UND's Brad Berry and Bubba Schweigert are Herald's Newspersons of the Year

UND had three presidents in 2016. It had budget cuts that resulted in eliminated programs, lost jobs and dissolved majors. Two professors and a campus police officer were arrested. Two racially

UND head coaches Bubba Schweigert (left) and Brad Berry are the Grand Forks Herald's Newspersons of the Year. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)
UND head coaches Bubba Schweigert (left) and Brad Berry are the Grand Forks Herald's Newspersons of the Year. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)
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UND had three presidents in 2016.

It had budget cuts that resulted in eliminated programs, lost jobs and dissolved majors. Two professors and a campus police officer were arrested. Two racially charged social media posts raised tensions.

And the continued transition from the old Fighting Sioux nickname to the new Fighting Hawks moniker created a divide among UND's supporters.

But amid all the turmoil and chaos on campus, UND's two highest-profile athletic teams came through, turning negative headlines into positive ones, dysfunction into excitement and helped lift the haze that sat over campus for much of the year.

UND men's hockey coach Brad Berry and football coach Bubba Schweigert not only won championships, they also showed-in an age where it's becoming harder to find likeable high-profile coaches in sports-that nice guys can finish first and that it is still possible to hold athletes to a high standard off the playing surface and win games at the same time.

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For that, Berry and Schweigert are the 2016 Grand Forks Herald persons of the year.

"They brought excitement and fun back to the community," UND athletic director Brian Faison said. "Certainly, the university, from a regional and national perspective, it brought great attention to the university. It's a great vehicle for not only athletics, but for people to learn about other programs as well."

Berry led the men's hockey team to the NCAA national championship in April, becoming the first rookie head coach to win the title in Division I history. UND beat Northeastern, Michigan, Denver and Quinnipiac en route to its eighth national championship and first in 16 years.

Fans flocked to Tampa, Fla., in anticipation that this may finally be the team to break the national championship drought. Those who stayed in Grand Forks filled the streets downtown after the title game went final.

Upon returning home from Tampa, Berry brought the trophy around town for the next month to let the city join in on the celebration.

"It was a tremendous amount of fan support," said Faison, who was in Tampa for the Frozen Four. "The support was incredible. I still have people talking to me about it. When I meet with other ADs, they still talk about it. Now, they also talk about New York City. But it was a reinforcement of the great fan support that North Dakota hockey has."

While the hockey program continued to engaged its rabid fan base, Schweigert took huge steps toward rebuilding the football team's.

Just three years after UND went 3-8-and lost five games by more than 20 points-Schweigert led the Fighting Hawks to a perfect 8-0 record in the Big Sky Conference and the football program's first Division I NCAA playoff appearance.

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He helped re-engage a fan base that had dwindled in recent years by doing things like passing out free student tickets in the quad and inviting random fans to games on Facebook.

"With Bubba, it has been a building process-a quick building process," Faison said. "I'm very impressed with the job he has done-both assimilating a staff in a short amount of time, the impact from a recruiting standpoint."

Faison said the successes of Berry and Schweigert have gone beyond the field, too.

"Each program has a culture that they protect and develop with the student-athletes," Faison said. "They both know how important community engagement and outreach is. They've been tremendous about it. Frankly, with both Brad and Bubba, it's intuitive.

"You remember Brad coming back from the Frozen Four and taking the trophy all around town. He was taking it to the cleaners, to the bank. . . he just does that. Bubba is the same way. He's going out on campus and passing out tickets to students. In a community like Grand Forks, it really is received the way you would hope it would be.

"They just get it."

UND head football Bubba Schweigert celebrates after players doused him with water after a Fighting Hawks' 38-31 victory against Northern Arizona University for the Big Sky Championship at the Alerus Center in November. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)
UND head football Bubba Schweigert celebrates after players doused him with water after a Fighting Hawks' 38-31 victory against Northern Arizona University for the Big Sky Championship at the Alerus Center in November. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

Related Topics: BUBBA SCHWEIGERTBRAD BERRY
Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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