Tradition & History

Recalling Bison Sports

Looking back on sports that had success at NDSU before being discontinued or adapted.

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Looking back on sports that had success at NDSU before being discontinued or adapted. September’s issue of Bison Illustrated can also be found here.



The 1982-83 men’s and women’s swimming teams. The women finished third in the NCC.

Men’s and women’s swimming is one of the muddier aspects of Bison sports history. While women’s swimming did not become an organized sport for women until 1981 at NDSU, the men had been competing since the late 1960s. The earliest North Central Conference records indicate that the Bison began competing in the conference in 1967-68.

Despite being the “newbie” in the NCC, North Dakota State put out solid results in the conference. The 1968-69 men’s team, in only their second season in the conference, finished second at the NCC meet. That would be the highest finish the Bison ever had in the NCC as they were unable to capture a conference title in their time as a sanctioned sport. However, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, they continued to be formidable finishing fifth in the NCC in 1976-77 and fourth in 1977-78.

The 1968-69 men’s swimming team. In only their second year in the NCC, the Bison finished second at the conference meet.

Bison women’s swimming began in 1981 and the team immediately became a top conference team in the NCC. The program’s highest finishes at the conference meet came in 1981 and 1982 (the first two years of the program’s existence) where they finished third. North Dakota State continued to bolster a roster of solid swimmers up until the 1989-90 season.

Men’s and women’s swimming was discontinued at NDSU in 1990.


In 1956, Bison men’s tennis won the program’s first conference championship.

While tennis has not been a sanctioned sport at North Dakota State for nearly 30 years, the Bison still have a rich tradition in the sport. Records show the Bison fielded a team as early as 1924 where the team had two matches, both against the University of North Dakota. In their first match, the two teams worked to a draw at the Island Park tennis courts in Fargo. In the rematch, NDSU captured a match victory after traveling to Grand Forks and defeating UND.

It was not until 1956 that NDSU won its first recognized conference title. Competing in the North Central Conference, the Bison, led by head coach Erv Kaiser, plowed through the teams of the region, going undefeated on the year. This included meet wins at the Herd Invitational and the state meet in Dickinson. At the conference championship, the Bison cruised to victory, compiling a perfect seven-win to zero loss ledger.

The next conference crown for NDSU did not come until 1963 where the Bison won back to back North Central Conference titles in ‘63 and 1964. From there, Bison men’s tennis continued to compete with some successful campaigns through the 70s and 80s. However, 1964 would be the last time North Dakota State won a conference men’s tennis title.

The 1983 Bison women’s tennis team won the program’s first and only North Central Conference championship.

Women had been playing organized tennis on campus as early as 1928. The Bison women fielded some competitive teams, including a team that finished fourth in the Minn-Kota Conference in 1973-74. At the time, the Minn-Kota Conference was made up of NDSU, UND, Bemidji State, Concordia- Moorhead, MSUM and Minnesota-Morris.

NDSU women’s tennis won their first and only North Central Conference title in 1983. They finished that season with a 12-4 dual match play record. This included three meet wins including the NCC Conference Championships.

Both men’s and women’s tennis were discontinued in 1990.


The Bison women’s rifle team circa mid-1920s.

As the North Dakota Agricultural College (what we now know as NDSU) was being established in 1980, there was a select few areas of instruction for students. One of these was what was referred to as “military tactics” and weapons training. In the early days of NDAC, this fielded both men’s and women’s rifle teams. As time has gone on and NDAC turned into NDSU, these instructional courses became more intensive and it has helped cultivate the current military science and ROTC programs we see at NDSU today.

One of the early pioneers within NDSU athletics was Gladys Bockwaldt Lauf, who was a member of the early women’s rifle teams. On top of being a successful riflewoman, Bockwaldt Lauf also competed in baseball, soccer, basketball and bowling while on campus at NDAC. Graduating in 1928, Bockwaldt Lauf was a member of the Women’s Athletic Association and an original member of NDSU’s Delta Psi Kappa fraternity.

The 1926 NDAC women’s basketball team. Bison great Gladys Bockwaldt Lauf can be seen in the back row, second from right.

Bockwaldt Lauf helped pave the way for women in athletics at the then NDAC and her influence can still be seen today at North Dakota State. She was inducted into the Bison Athletic Hall Of Fame in 1980, becoming the first woman to do so.

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