By Thursday afternoon two of my fellow sports writers were headed off to the four state tournaments being held across the state, while I was left behind to hold down the fort.
Now, while I was happy to stay close to home, I couldn't help but think of all the great sports moments I might possibly be missing. It made me feel a little left out, like I was the guy at the office that didn't get invited to the after-work party.
Luckily though I was given a choice opportunity that changed my tune.
Two head coaches from the University of North Dakota, women's head Gene Roebuck and head football coach Chris Mussman, along with associate athletic director Sean Johnson, and a couple of other UND people (sorry guys I forgot your names), invited the local media to a little lunch at Michaels.
Immediately my first though was of course "free lunch" but then I thought "wait, what's the catch." Are they coming to tell us that our coverage is horrible and we need to do a better job? Will UND no longer be working with us? Or was it to tell us that we actually aren't that bad, and that we do a decent job of covering a university that isn't in our coverage area?
Fourtunately it was the latter of the three.
The meal on UND was in part to thank the local media for any and all coverage we give UND.
While the meal was great, the opportunity to sit down with a couple NCAA Division I coaches was the real treat.
Both Roebuck and Mussman were what you would call true professionals. Neither talked down to you, neither felt that their respective programs were better than the others at UND or in the state, well maybe NDSU a little bit ... well maybe more than a little bit.
So to say the least, not only was the free meal (always a plus) enjoyable, but so was the conversation, which consisted of some war, I mean coaching stories by the two coaches, along with some questions here and there.
One of the questions I asked both Roebuck and Mussman was the importance of recruiting from within the state. Both felt it was important, but not always easy.
"We start close to home, and then work our way out," Roebuck said. "You have to go after the top two or three players from your state. You'd be crazy not to, so we always try our best to get the best from our state first."
"It's a little tougher for us, because of the numbers we have on the roster," Mussman said. "We usually get a few each year, which is important, but we also spend a lot of time on the road recruiting."
Both said the recruiting process has been helped with UND's move up to Division I.
"It has helped us tremendously I'd say," Roebuck said. "Before we would go out after kids and they would say 'well ... we'll come to UND if our offer with the DI school doesn't work out'. Now that we are a DI school, we don't have that problem."
While UND is a DI institution, they are still on a waiting period for post-season play, which has been a thorn in Mussman's side on the recruiting trail.
"The biggest obstacle we run in to is with the kids and parents worrying about the playoff eligibilty issue," he said. "Sure we aren't eligible yet, but it isn't that far way, so the closer we get, the easier it is."
There was some semi-serious conversation going during the one-hour meet and greet, but there was more than a few funny stories exchanged.
Roebuck, who's a Velva native, had more than his share of comical stories, some that can't be repeated here, but my personal favorite went to Mussman (sorry Gene).
Mussman told a story near the end of our meeting about a recruiting trip to see a kid from South Dakota. He made stops along the way of course, and all the way down he was bombarded with the "well you guys aren't really eligible for the playoffs, so I don't really know?" from kids and parents. When he arrived at the kid's house in South Dakota, he found out that the kid's dad went to South Dakota State, which is postseason eligible.
So to make a long story short (I know I didn't do a very good job already, why change it now right) the kid eventually asked Mussman, "why should I go to UND when South Dakota State is eligible for postseason play and you guys aren't?" Mussman, fed up, replied, "when was the last time South Dakota State made it into the postsesason?" The kid thought for a minute and finally admitted he didn't know, so Mussman told him, "well let me put it to you this way, I'm 40-years old and it's never happened once in my lifetime."
The kid ended up at UND.
(T.J. Allick is a sports writer for The Minot Daily News. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com)