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Kolpack: NDSU needs to pay back transition players after cashing in big in Frisco

North Dakota State running back Sam Ojuri (22) celebrates with his teammates after winning the Football Championship Subdivision title game on Saturday at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

FRISCO, Texas - North Dakota State's move to Division I athletics that began in 2003 came with added expenses that could be measured in thousands of dollars. The costs were not necessarily all monetary, either, such as being ineligible for postseason competition for five years.

Football players who enrolled at the start of the decade were affected. And it wasn't until the 2008 recruiting class did the roster begin to wean off players who went through the transition.

The D-I move took a sacrifice by a lot of players.

Sometime in the coming weeks, the subject of championship rings will come up after the Bison defeated Sam Houston State (Texas) 17-6 for the Division I Football Championship Subdivision title. It's the rite of being a champion, and you see former players from the Division II titles wearing theirs all the time.

There are 99 players on this roster who qualify to get their ring finger measured.

It shouldn't stop there and the administration shouldn't be done paying for the transition just yet. The number of former players who were on hand for the weekend in Frisco was tremendous, including most of the guys who played during the transition.

"We want to make sure we embrace our former players," head coach Craig Bohl said following the title game.

They booked flights from all parts of the country, many saying they weren't sure exactly why, but just felt they needed to be in Texas. Because they were ineligible, they took stock in this title and they should be rewarded for it.

Give them all rings.

Give any player who played in a transition year a title ring because they never had the chance to earn one on the field. It's the right thing to do.

The Bison won a Great West Football Conference title in 2007 and at the time it sufficed as a victory celebration. As other schools that have gone through a transition can attest, any goal you can hang your hat on is well worth it.

NDSU's NFL players who didn't play this weekend from that era were in Frisco like Nick Schommer and Craig Dahl. Justin Frick, who played as a true freshman in 2004 and was a rare player who endured the four Division I ineligible years, was there.

"You feel like you have built something," Dahl said. "You're just so proud to see them carry on all that tradition."

Bohl, by welcoming former players to practice on Friday, made sure his players were aware of the past.

"I think it sends a message to our players right now that it's more than just them," he said. "There were a whole lot of guys that have gone before them, and it also sends a message to them that someday they're going to be one of those guys and they'll always be welcomed back."

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack's NDSU media blog can be found