NDSU fan makes good on bet to move to Brookings after SDSU win
BROOKINGS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - At some point in our lives, we have all lost a bet.
But a North Dakota State University football fan who bet on the Bison to beat arch football rival South Dakota State last week is paying a price for the 23-21 loss that might be more humiliating than money.
Chris Hanson is an NDSU alumnus who bleeds green and gold. He’s also been a radio personality in Fargo for 26 years who, for the last three mammoth-stakes “Dakota Marker” games has promised to do something that makes his skin crawl if the Jackrabbits beat the Bison.
Boy, has his skin been crawling these last three contests.
He bought breakfast for SDSU fans at Taco John’s — “the preeminent dining destination in all of Brookings County” — after the first defeat, and painted himself head-to-toe in blue and stood on a street corner in Fargo with a “Go Jacks” sign after the second.
Last week on his popular “BOB 95 FM” morning show, he went for the gusto before last Saturday’s first-ever showdown with the rivals ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation.
“The theory is in gambling, when you’re losing, you have to bet big big to try to get it all back, right,” Hanson said. “So, this week, I said if NDSU loses for a third year in a row, I’ll go live in Brookings for a while.”
Knowing Hanson’s extreme fandom, his co-hosts both laughed and gasped as if he had announced he was daring himself to skinny dip in the Antarctic Ocean or sleep on a bed of chainsaws for a week.
“Oh my goodness,” one partner bellowed.
“You’re favorite city in the world,” the other co-host quipped.
“No place I’d rather be than Brookings, South Dakota,” Hanson snarked.
“For a week,” a co-host shot back.
“It’s not going to happen,” Hanson said. “NDSU is going to win. I am fully confident in that happening, and that’s why I can gleefully make all the reservations at the little campground.”
He never canceled. The Jackrabbits came roaring back from a 21-7 halftime deficit to break Bison hearts, 23-21.
Just after SDSU players hoisted the Dakota Marker trophy, several people walked up to Hanson and asked him, “Dude, you’re not really going to Brookings for a week, are you?”
“I said, ‘yeah, a bet’s a bet,” Hanson said. “I started packing on Saturday night and left around Noon on Sunday.”
Sure, the loss, and some public humiliation, stung for a third consecutive match-up. And Hanson initially thought, “this is going to be the most boring week ever,” as he headed south on I-29.
“Tongue-in-cheek, I make a lot of fun of Brookings being more or less a Little House on the Prairie,” Nelson said, “taking the angle of, ‘oh, they’re going to love it when I show them electricity and running cars.’”
In reality, Hanson grew up in smaller towns, including, of all places... Groton, SD. That’s right. One of the most passionate and public Bison fans, who was born in Pelican Lakes, Minnesota, moved to rural northern South Dakota when he was eight years old and graduated from high school there. But his family was full of Bison fans, and he moved to Fargo — with a metropolitan area population of over 252,000 — to attend NDSU 27 years ago. He never left.
But he loves playing the big city bully on the radio, and he figured his days in Brookings — population, almost 25,000 — would provide radio gold.
It turned out to deliver platinum, in more ways than one.
At the start, he played up the stereotypes. When asked where he visited, he said, “Walmart, so that was pretty exciting. You know, I asked where the Target was, and a guy told me I’d have to drive to Sioux Falls.”
The campground Hanson stayed was called Sexauer Park. Seriously. There is an easy pun there when you say “Sexauer” out loud, and the word made its own joke on the morning show. Naturally, Hanson asked around and learned that long ago, there was a Sexauer family in Brookings that wanted to give back to the community.
Hanson stayed, slept, and hosted his radio show from what he calls “more of a summer camper,” and on Tuesday morning experienced the bite of an 18-degree morning temperature — three degrees below the record low for Brookings on Oct. 18. This caused the pipes to burst in the campground’s public bathroom.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Hanson said.
But eventually, bathroom was fixed and things started to become “way more fun than I thought it’d be.”
He hit almost all the hot spots and “to do’s” in town — walking the SDSU campus, buying $200 of Jackrabbit merch at the university bookstore, eating a burger at Nick’s, trying chislic (skewered cubes of red meat, a South Dakota delicatessen) for the first his life at Pints and Quarts.
“It was delicious,” Hanson said. “It’s been super fun. The people have been great.”
He did it all of this while wearing a sign that read “Bison Fan Who Lost a Bet.”
“Instantly, people are intrigued,” Hanson said. “And then, I tell them the story. They assume I live here, and that I lost the bet. But when I tell them, ‘No, I’m from Fargo,’ and that I have to live here all week, that’s when they really start laughing and I think they take the joy in seeing me suffer.”
But Hanson hasn’t been afraid to dish it right back.
“Everyone has been super nice, and I would expect a fair amount of niceness if (a Jackrabbit fan) had to do this in Fargo,” Hanson said. “But at the same time, I enjoy the back-and-forth because you know I’ll get some ribbing about (SDSU’s three straight wins vs. NDSU), and then I’ll say, ‘Well,’ I’ll just go home and get some sleep and enjoy our 17 national championship trophies. And you guys can keep the Dakota Marker.”
Over the years, Hanson — who also occasionally co-hosts a sports talk radio show on BOB 95′s sister station, 1660 The Bison — has taken some verbal swings at the Jackrabbits, Brookings, and John Steigelmeier, who has been SDSU’s head football coach since about the time Hanson started his radio career in Fargo.
On Monday night, as part of the bet, he attended Stiegelmeier’s radio show at famed Cubby’s Sports Bar and Grill downtown, and bellied up to the bar decked in Bison green and gold. One man told Hanson he was “in his seat,” and other regulars nodded. When Hanson moved down one seat, the man said, “I’m saving that seat for a friend.”
“I could pick up on what was going on,” Hanson said.
Eventually, Stiegelmeier arrived to appear on his show, and did so to a packed crowd, and one would assume one of the most joyous crowds the show has seen.
Shockingly to Hanson, when off the air, Stiegelmeier approached Hanson. It was their first encounter. Hanson’s mind raced to how “embarrassed” he began feeling, thinking back to “some stuff that’s been said” about the coach. But he had nothing to worry about.
“He was the nicest guy,” Hanson said of Stiegelmeier. “He said, ‘yeah, I’ve been warned by a bunch of people that you’re going to be in town.”
They laughed and they talked a couple minutes, and that was that.
On Wednesday, when Dakota News Now paid Hanson a visit at the campground, he was asked when he planned on leaving.
“Well, I’m supposed to be here until Friday, but I’m hoping I can ask Coach Stig for a pardon,” Hanson joked. “Like, he’s probably the most powerful man in all of South Dakota right now, so if he can say, ‘you’ve done enough, go home, that’ll be the end of it.”
Luckily for Hanson, Stiegelmeier had agreed to take a few minutes out of his hectic head coaching day to talk to DNN about meeting Hanson.
So, Hanson tagged along, and walked into the belly of the beast — SDSU’s sprawling and sparkling football complex, adjacent to Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, where Hanson mentioned he had “experienced a few nightmares.”
Turns out, Hanson would have a hospitable tour guide — North Dakota’s Enemy of the State.
The two met in Stiegelmeier’s cluttered office overlooking the north end zone, and immediately started joking and getting to know each other. Hanson sincerely thanked Stiegelmeier and SDSU for agreeing to move up from Div. II to Div. I football back in 2003, along with North Dakota State.
At the time, the University of North Dakota was NDSU’s fiercest football rival while USD was SDSU’s most hated opponent, but the two schools with “State” in their name were the only two of the four Dakota schools in the North Central Conference willing to make the leap into the big leagues. Stiegelmeier, as he has many times, mentioned how that development was not only the genesis of what has become what Stiegelmeier calls “the best rivalry in the FCS,” but also the birth of what has been universally considered a rivalry of mutual respect.
“We needed each other,” Stiegelmeier has always said of NDSU and SDSU’s football programs almost 20 years ago. USD and UND would eventually re-join the fray, but have not been able to keep up with the Joneses of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Bison have won nine FCS national titles, while the Jacks have made 10 consecutive playoff berths and finished with a Top 10 ranking each of the last seven seasons.
Two years ago, SDSU played in its first national title game, losing to Sam Houston State on a touchdown with seconds left. Last year, the two Dakota schools would have played for a championship, “but we dropped the ball, literally,” Stiegelmeier said to Hanson, referring to SDSU’s turnover-plagued semifinal loss at Montana State.
Stiegelmeier’s office — and the 20,000-seat, state-of-the-art, six-year-old stadium that provides its south window view — is a sign of what has been built in the last two decades by Stiegelmeier, former SDSU athletics director Fred Oien, current A.D. Justin Sell, and some devoted boosters like the namesake of the stadium.
But Hanson was struck by a giant photograph in Stiegelmeier’s office, among the cluster on a table against one wall.
It was a picture of one of the trailers that SDSU’s coaches used to have to work out of in the days of the old Coughlin Alumni Stadium, which sat in the same spot as “The Dana.”
“I make every coach put one in his office, to remind them where we came from,” Stiegelmeier said, as Hanson nodded.
The two made their way downstairs, past the giant and modern weight room that currently sets the FCS standard. NDSU has taken notice, and is in the midst of building a new $54 million palace of its own.
They walked down the hallway and into the Sanford-Jackrabbit Complex, a $32 million indoor football and track-and-field training facility, where SDSU practices on colder days.
As the Bison fan and Jackrabbit coach started to marvel about how far their football programs have come — and how absurd college football’s arms race has become — Stiegelmeier was asked about spending time with a passionate and sometimes publicly rowdy media member and fan of the program “Coach Stig” has poured so many hours and suffered so many heartbreaks trying to catch.
Stiegelmeier was doing so four days after a gut-wrenching win over NDSU that propelled SDSU to its first-ever No. 1 national ranking.
The 26-year head coach, who has spend most of his adult life coaching at SDSU, was asked if it was easier to pal around with a Bison fan after beating the Bison.
”In my early years, it might have been easier,” Stiegelmeier said. “Right now, I’m old enough and seasoned enough that my life does not revolve around winning football games, or football seasons.
“Life is about making memories. Some are unique. Some are special. Some are disappointing and this is a neat experience, to be part of a bet, and a visit, and get to know him a bit, and hopefully continue the relationship.”
With that, the two men went back upstairs for one last humbling experience of Hanson’s “lost bet” trip.
First, a pose in front of the Dakota Marker trophy together. It sat prominently in the lobby of the SDSU football office.
After that, the Dakota News Now camera started rolling, and Hanson’s self-proclaimed “most powerful man in South Dakota” looked into the lens.
”I, John Stiegelemeier, Head Football Coach at South Dakota State, pardon Chris. He’s off the record, off the leash,” the coach said as he placed his right hand on Hanson’s shoulder and looked into his new friend’s eye, extending his left hand for a handshake.
“I can be done,” Hanson asked with faux sheepishness as he connected on the handshake.
“You can be done,” Stiegelmeier affirmed.
“Congratulations on the win and best of luck for the rest of the season, wherever it may go,” Hanson replied.
“I appreciate that. Thank you. Take care,” Stiegelmeier said.
With that, they went about their days and their lives. Hanson had left Brookings by the end of the day, about the same time the Jackrabbits hit the practice field.
Of course, both men knew what Hanson’s “wherever it may go” remark meant.
Both NDSU and SDSU will have to navigate land mines for the rest of the regular season — including SDSU’s trip to UND this weekend.
But it is far from inconceivable that two of the mightiest programs in the country will meet again in January in Frisco, Texas, and wage the next chapter in what has become one of the best rivalries at any level of the sport.
“Wherever it may go” might’ve well have meant “See you in Frisco.”
You got the feeling both men kind of hope that happens. Same thing for coaches, players, staff, fans, and media for both teams.
And if it does, what will Chris do to one-up himself with his next NDSU-SDSU bet?
“You know, I’m already being blamed for these three losses in a row, and the hashtag ‘Blame Chris Hanson’ has been trending around Fargo, so, this might be it. This might be the last one.”
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