In January 2016, North Dakota State emphatically beat Jacksonville State, 37-10, in the FCS Playoff Championship, clinching a record fifth-straight national championship at college football's second level. That streak set an all-time, all-levels college football record.
It ended in December, when James Madison knocked the Bison out of the following season's FCS semifinals.
Despite obstacles, North Dakota State has kept on winning. It survived a coaching transition in 2014 without skipping a beat, after Craig Bohl left for Wyoming after winning three straight titles. During Chris Klieman's first three seasons in charge in Fargo, all the Bison did is go 40-5 with two championships.
Going to the title game is tradition for NDSU fans, so much so that this year's trip was planned well ahead of time. Back early in the season:
"No one travels like us," insists Bison superfan Mike Wheeler. "No one compares, that's just a fact. When we went to Minnesota (to play the Gophers in 2011), a couple of their boosters took photos of our tailgate to show those fans how it should be done."
Indeed, many fans have already made their plans, as usual, to travel to Frisco, Texas, the annual site of the FCS National Championship game, or "Bison Weekend," as they call it in the Lone Star State. Frisco is a second home for Bison Nation, to the point "they were talking about giving us our own zip code," according to Wheeler. Indeed, the income generated by NDSU fans traveling south to the Dallas suburb is so crucial to the locals that it is practically part of the municipal operating budget.
When the Bison won their fifth straight championship, we looked at how their current run stacks up against other streaks from the sports world.
They're already at the top of the heap among college football teams. They already owned the longest streak at the FCS level, and the win on Saturday gives them the record for all levels, breaking the tie with D-III Augustana (Ill.), which won four straight titles from 1983-1986. No team at the FBS level has ever won four straight outright national championships. If you count split titles, Michigan won or split four straight championships, but it was all the way back in 1901-1904.
College football championship streaks
FBS: Two, seven different teams
FCS: Five, North Dakota State
D-II: Three, North Alabama
D-III: Four, Augustana (Ill.)
Other college sports streaks
Baseball: Five, USC
Men's basketball: Seven, UCLA
Squash: 13, Trinity (Conn.) College
Men's swimming and diving: 31, Kenyon
Women's basketball: Four, North Dakota State/Washington St. Louis
Pro sports streaks
NFL: Two, eight different teams
NBA: Eight, Boston Celtics
MLB: Five, New York Yankees
NHL: Five, Montreal Canadians
World Cup: Two, Italy/Brazil
High school football state titles: Six, Iolani (Hawaii)/Highlands (Ky.)
Billboard No. 1 singles: Seven, Whitney Houston
No. 1 weekends at the box office: 15, Titanic
WrestleMania wins: 21, The Undertaker
Years winning an Oscar: Eight, Walt Disney
Even before the Bison won their fifth straight championship this calendar year, they had already established themselves among the firmament of college football history. But the streak places this run among the best in all of sports, transcending college football.