Nov. 17—GRAND FORKS — In the years since the pandemic-impacted 2020-21 college football season, Senior Day has provided a bit of a hint for those projecting future rosters.
The NCAA granted a free season of eligibility for those competing in the shortened spring season of 2021. After that, many teams conducted Senior Day by honoring those anticipating to move on from the program.
The Senior Day provided hints at which players were coming back and which were staying, although a bulk of those conversations really took place at the conclusion of a season.
At that point, some difficult conversations took place as the program weighed a player's impact and roster management with the infusion of new players to the team.
UND coach Bubba Schweigert, however, says this year's Senior Day, which will take place Saturday in the regular season finale against Illinois State at the Alerus Center, will have a different look.
"We might be doing it different than other people," "We're going to honor all of our guys listed as seniors on our roster and some of the guys who are academic seniors. We don't know about our roster moving forward, and we're going to honor those guys. If we have to honor guys this year and the following year, so be it.
"We're going to honor them as seniors. With the state of college football as it is right now, that's the way we decided to do it."
UND's roster includes 21 players listed as seniors, graduate seniors or fifth-year players.
Two of the offense's primary pieces are seniors with the option of returning for an additional season due to the COVID-19 exemption.
Quarterback Tommy Schuster told the Herald in September he hasn't made a decision about 2024.
"We have not had that conversation," Schuster said. "We're 100 percent focused on this year."
Wide receiver Bo Belquist is in a similar situation but has indicated he's likely to return.
"I think guys need time to think over it when the season is done but leaning toward coming back," Belquist said. "As of now, that's the plan. It's such a great place, it's hard to leave it. Trying to finish the season strong and make a run at the playoffs. The future is whatever happens happens."
In the meantime, the Hawks have a playoff-like battle ahead against Illinois State — a team, like UND, searching for a seventh Division I win and a consideration for the FCS playoffs.
"This is what we signed up for at the start of the year — to make the playoffs at the end of the season," Belquist said. "A lot of teams don't have that opportunity. It's do or die."
Belquist said UND's offense, which was held out of the end zone last week at South Dakota, doesn't need to change its identity this week against the Redbirds.
"It's just sticking to the basics we have had all fall camp and come out and be the more physical team for the 60-plus (minutes)," Belquist said.
Who: UND vs. Illinois State
Where: Alerus Center, Grand Forks
When: 1 p.m., Saturday
TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27, 622 HD)
Radio: 96.1 FM