Photos Courtesy of The Foti Family and NDSU Athletics
v. Herd /herd/ to stay or move together
a. Humble /humble/ having or showing a modest estimate of importance
The verb “herd” can easily be defined as “to gather and move in a group.” In noun form, “herd” has various meanings, but there aren’t enough pages in the dictionary to tell the tale of how Tom Foti and Brenda Schultz turned The Herd into their family.
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Both recruited to the Herd from small towns in Minnesota, Tom and Brenda (Schultz) Foti found their way to each other amid the rush of a thousand Bison. With the help of talented coaches, the uncoordinated motions of each charging individual became a cohesive team, appearing to move in sync. Forming what could be the world’s first long-distance herd, these two alumni have held on to more than just memories after moving away for their careers.
Live & Breathe Athletics
As their youngest daughter heads to high school and their oldest makes a name for herself in college athletics, this Bison couple reflect on the years that set their lives into motion.
“It’s been a huge part of our life, athletics, and still is,” said Brenda, a former player on the volleyball team. “NDSU just got it all started for us.”
Together with husband Tom, former men’s basketball player, Brenda resides in Madison, Wisconsin, with their three daughters: Samantha, Brianna and Gabriella. She is in her 23rd year teaching at the private high school in Edgewood, Wisconsin, and beginning to witness a familiar process as her children develop academically and athletically.
“I think what happens is that you change so much during those college years and become an adult, whether it’s the beliefs you have or interests, and you gravitate toward the people who have the same ones,” said Brenda. “Humor has always been a really big part of our life. I see that with a lot of the people we have kept in touch with.
“There’s a huge connection of college friends that we’ve made that we have kept in contact with yearly, by having our own little reunions. Since graduation, every year with the exception of two years, one of them being this year, we have gotten together with college friends.”
Brenda: Back To The Start
From her high school in Jackson, Minnesota, where she was an all-state volleyball and all-region basketball player, Brenda arrived in an integrated athletic program full of student-athletes who shared her humble but hungry mindset.
“I knew they were doing well before I got there, and that was intriguing to me,” said Brenda. “My first coach, Cathy Olson George, who happens to be the Michigan State coach right now, she basically said, ‘Forget everything you know.’ And she trained me to be a middle, so I give her a great deal of credit in knowing how to train me.”
Brenda was recruited by Donna Palivec. The Bison Athletic Hall of Famer left for Montana State before Brenda arrived, leaving a void for George to fill successfully. Brenda was always thankful toward the coach who introduced her to NDSU.
“I appreciate Donna so much for giving me the opportunity because I was coming from a very small school and had no club experience or anything,” Brenda said. “She happened to see me at a camp at Macalester in Minnesota.”
The spectrum of coaching Brenda received at NDSU was only possible through trust and dedication built up before the boisterous volleyball era. Brenda’s understanding of how teams transcend time and morph into a single Herd is evident in her appreciation for the trails blazed before her time.
“The best team that I was on when you look at how far we went was my senior year when we were second in the nation,” said Brenda. “Even though people weren’t on that team, I give a lot of credit to previous players for all of our accomplishments because they don’t happen just by a few players coming in and doing well. It’s how the ground was laid before.”
Teaching To Impact
Earning a degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminal justice in 1992, Brenda went on to earn a master’s in special education at the University of Wisconsin. Tom also earned a master’s degree in Madison at Edgewood College. Today, Brenda coordinates a learning resource center at Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart and ran volleyball camps there for nearly 20 summers.
“Originally, I would have loved to be a detective,” said Brenda. “But the closer I got to family life, I realized how much I loved having my dad, who was a teacher, home during the holidays and at our games. I thought, ‘That’s a great occupation for someone who needs to and wants to spend extra time with their kids.’”
Teaching also allowed Brenda to witness her daughter Samantha’s success front and center. In her senior year at Edgewood High, Samantha broke the school’s all-time record for kills with 465. Now in her junior year at Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio, she doubled her playing time from 13 matches her freshman year to 30 the next, picking up 204 digs in 2015.
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“I think she would have been driven enough to seek this out on her own regardless, but it’s just been really fun being a part of it with her,” said Brenda.
Proving you can’t take the Herd out of the Bison, the Fotis have expanded their connection to NDSU even after leaving Fargo. Joe Regnier, former Bison basketball player who played professionally in Australia and Malaysia, and his wife, Sharon, are among the many people whom they’ve added to their teleherd.
“What’s really been fun about it is all of our kids have grown up together, Joe Regnier, he and his wife moved up to the area and they have two boys [Michael and Andrew],” Brenda said. “All of our kids have grown up together. So, it’s not just us reuniting, we’ve had our families grow up with each other. Even if they see each other once or twice a year, they’ve become very close.”
The Herd doesn’t discriminate based on school, distance or even time. Even though the Foti’s daughters grew up states away from NDSU and are attending different universities, the infectious Herd mentality lives on through the connections forged and tales told about growing up Bison.
- MVP of 1990 NCAA North Central Regional
- One of six in league history to receive four-time All-NCC selections
- Three NCAA Elite Eight appearances (2nd in ‘90 and 3rd in ‘88 and ’89)
- Played on three straight NCC championship teams (1988-90)
- Holds NDSU’s NCAA records for most sets played (57), solo blocks (15), and digs (159)