Klieman Mountains Isn’t Easy

So we’ve come to the end of Chris Klieman’s first regular season as head coach of the North Dakota State Bison. And if I do say so myself, things don’t look too shabby. The Bison finished 11-1 (with yet another win over an FBS school, this time Iowa State). Moreover, this isn’t exactly a case of a championship roster remaining intact while only the Head Coach changes. In truth while the players can all be accredited to Bohl in large part, this team is largely devoid of myriad key starters from the 3-peat teams Bohl put together. The star, starting quarterback, Brock Jensen, is gone along with Marcus Williams and Billy Turner (now with the Jets and Dolphins respectively) starting running back Sam Ojuri, star linebacker Grant Olson, go to receiver Ryan Smith, and a veritable cornucopia of other guys. So while Bohl certainly didn’t leave the cupboards bare, it was up to Klieman to build a new title contender out of these parts. The “team” of Bohl was certainly not left intact.

(Photo Credit - Tony Guitierrez, AP)

(Photo Credit – Tony Guitierrez, AP)

So all in all I’m quite pleased with Klieman’s 11-1 record. The one loss came against UNI which, although not excusable, is at least understandable considering the circumstances. UNI plays NDSU tough every single year. Although they aren’t always sitting at the top of the division they always play NDSU tough. Indeed, they might have, historically, the best football program in the Missouri Valley Football Conference (the best FCS conference by far). Since 1985 (the year the MVFC began playing football again) UNI has won 16!!! conference titles. The next highest total by any school? 5. And while NDSU has won 4 titles running, they’re still newcomers to the league by UNIs standards, and UNI just wants to remind us of that on occasion.

Photo Credit MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

Photo Credit MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

So anyway, its incredibly hard to play AT UNI and this year we couldn’t pull off the win unfortunately. O’well. As much as I wanted Klieman to get an undefeated season during his first year as coach, he’s still 11-1 and split the conference title with Illinois State (also a 1 loss team with, guess who… UNI as their only loss). Now, while this kindof freaks me out as an aside (Klieman’s alma mater is UNI, and if we’re gonna lost to them it makes me worry that, if the job ever came open, Klieman would leave the Bison to return to his hometown of Waterloo Iowa) even though it probably shouldn’t (Mark Farley is only 51, and also a UNI guy so unless an FBS job comes calling he’ll probably be there another 10 years) none of this changes the fact that Klieman appears to have been the right choice for this job.

UNI has an elite program and not only are they Klieman's alma mater, they're his hometown team. He was born and raised in Waterloo Iowa going to Panthers games. (Photo Credit MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor)

UNI has an elite program and not only are they Klieman’s alma mater, they’re his hometown team. He was born and raised in Waterloo Iowa going to Panthers games. So there must have been some mixed emotions walking off the field in the UNI Dome with the first L of his NDSU Career. (Photo Credit MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor)

However, all isn’t quite perfect in paradise. First and foremost, regular season wins and conference titles are fantastic, but what I think all Bison Football fans want is that fourth straight title. No school in FCS history has every won 4 straight, and as a protest to our backwards thinking boosters at NDSU who wouldn’t allow the school to go to the FBS when we had the chance in 2004, I’d love to be the first school to achieve this. So while I don’t mean to downplay what Klieman has done so far, really he hasn’t done anything yet. I realize thats an incredibly unfair way to judge a new headcoach (win a national title in your first year or you suck) its just kindof the way I think about it.

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More importantly, however, is the fact that the team hasn’t always looked right this season. Under Bohl the team was the absolute picture of discipline and execution. NDSU never made stupid mistakes. Rarely committed penalties and helped the other team, and simply put their nose to the ground, ran the ball, and ground their opponents into flour (yay! Farm Jokes!!).

This is what discipline and hard work get you. (Image via Bison Illustrated)

This is what discipline and hard work get you. (Image via Bison Illustrated)

This year, however, the Bison just look off. On offense they can still grind opponents down with 6 yard rush followed by 5 yard rush, followed by 15 yard rush. Its the same formula. However, it feels like every third play they O line will hold, or false start, or something that erases the play and sets the team back. This was the formula that got us the L at Northern Iowa. Now, it didn’t result in repeated losses this year (obviously) and it didn’t even seem to slow the team down (of their 11 wins, 7 of them were by 20 points or more, INCLUDING the Iowa State win). NDSU still seems to dominate people, much the way Mississippi State was playing earlier this season. They were both just so much more talented and better than their opponents that they were constantly able to make stupid plays and mistakes and not just get the win in spite of this, but DOMINATE their opponents in spite of this.

NDSU has absolutely dominated in almost every game they played this year, even with mountains of mistakes. However, UNI proved we're not perfect, and wins against FBS schools don't matter come playoff time. (Photo Credit: Steven Branscombe, USA TODAY Sports)

NDSU has absolutely dominated in almost every game they played this year, even with mountains of mistakes. However, UNI proved we’re not perfect, and wins against FBS schools don’t matter come playoff time. (Photo Credit: Steven Branscombe, USA TODAY Sports)

However, when you run into a disciplined team, as was the case when NDSU squared off against UNI, things don’t look so peachy. As far as talent is concerned the Bison are clearly still the best team in FCS, and honestly a veeeery good team by FBS standards (Sagarin has them ranked #37 right now ahead of neighboring powers like Minnesota and Iowa) but the execution terrifies me.

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If you can screw it up during the regular season against a UNI team that finished 8-4, what happens when you start playing the best teams in the FCS during the playoffs. Like I already said, we all want this 4th title, but stupid mistakes me keep it out of our hands, and may rob us of an opportunity that I doubt will ever come again (a chance to win 4 straight).

Moreover, this whole issue of discipline really confuses me because I don’t see Klieman as an undisciplined coach. He knows how to run a program and has been a part of a winning one for a long time now. He learned under Bohl and is somewhat of a hand picked successor to him (although Bohl wanted Klieman to head to Wyoming with him rather than become head coach at NDSU, which only speaks to how important and skilled Klieman really is).Maybe its just youth. Like we already discussed NDSU lost more seniors off last years team than the number of pairs of glasses Velma lost on Scooby Doo’s 50 year run on television.

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Young teams make mistakes and that’s fine. If this is what a young Klieman team looks like, where they make tons of mistakes but are physically dominant most of the time, then I can’t wait for us to figure it out and get back to our disciplined ways. It scares me that this team didn’t seem to learn its lesson after the Northern Iowa loss though. You would think losing their 33 game win streak would have been enough to snap some sense into them, but even last Saturday in the Youngstown State game, a game they dominated and their last chance at a tune up before the playoffs start, they were STILL making all kinds of mental mistakes and stupid decisions throughout the game. This really terrifies me heading into the playoffs where all the teams are good.

(Photo Credit North Dakota State Athletics)

(Photo Credit North Dakota State Athletics)

With all that said, however, I just worry that this year’s playoff run represents a once in a lifetime opportunity. If we aren’t going to be allowed to compete in the FBS, then this is really what I have going for me. I hope the players all understand that this is the kind of opportunity that never comes again and they get their act together for the playoff run. They already cost themselves homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with that one loss, dropping themselves from the #1 overall seed to #2. They’ve given themselves an uphill battle in every game this year, and now its carried over to their path to a title. It didn’t have to be this hard, but they made it this way. I just hope with the added pressure of playoff season and the chance to make history, they don’t crack under the weight. I hope we prove that NDSU football is a program, not just a coach. I think it IS a program of dominance and Klieman and this crop of guys ARE every bit as good as their predecessors. Now I just hope they prove that to the rest of the world and go make history.

Photo Credit Bison Illustrated

Photo Credit Bison Illustrated

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Bittersweet Victory

What you want won’t always make you happy. I guess.

NCAA FOOTBALL: JAN 04 Division I Championship Game - North Dakota State University v Towson University

 

In a vacuum, this year has been an undeniable success for NDSU Bison Football. The Bison achieved all of the goals that I thought were musts. They put together an undefeated season and won a third straight title at the FCS level, tying them with Appalachian State as the only schools to do so. They also grabbed their 24th consecutive win, tying the FCS record. However, its pretty obvious that this looks to be the top of the mountain. While they could definitely grab that 25th win to secure the consecutive wins record outright, a 4th straight title is a longshot. The losses are going to take their toll. Not just Coach Bohl (I’m getting there) but on the team itself. Eleven starters and twenty-four seniors have to be replaced next year. What’s more, a lot of the departing players are legitimate stars. Marcus Williams has a bright NFL future ahead of him and might even be a 3rd round pick. Same goes for Tackle Billy Turner and Runningback Sam Ojuri. Then theres guys like Wide Receiver Ryan Smith and Linebacker Grant Olson who respectively formed the hearts of the offense and defense. And lest we forget, no more Brock Jensen next year. Losing that kind of talent and leadership, losing it on both sides of the ball, and all at once… that won’t be easy to recover from. This would have been a tall task even if Bohl were returning… but he’s not.

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Things really aren’t all bad though. On the positive side, there is some serious safetynet-ing going on in the receiving corps to help ease the transition. Zach Vraa is and will remain a beast and Tight End  Kevin Vaadeland will return for a 6th season to help ease the transition at quarterback, and NDSU continues to be deep in the backfield with a ready-made starter in Sam Crockett. Furthermore, you’ve got a legit stud returning on defense in Carlton Littlejohn to anchor that squad and help Coach Klieman drag this new unit up to snuff.

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Nothing can fix losing the best coach in the nation at his level but I think NDSU’s Athletic Department is making all the correct moves here heading forward. I like the idea of promoting from within to replace Bohl. You can’t go from outside when you’re building upon this level of unprecedented success for the school. Moreover, Klieman seems to be doing everything right in filling up his staff. I love the mix of keeping the old staff around (can’t fix it if its not broken) and the coaches he’s bringing in to replace those leaving with Bohl all of solid coaching experience and will be just fine next year while the staff coalesces around its new leadership. Perhaps more importantly he’s keeping most of NDSU’s local recruiting network (Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska) in place, even if the program appears to be losing valuable inroads into new talent rich areas (Florida and Arizona).

And that is where the sadness begins to set in for me. NDSU will definitely be good next year. Maybe even have a chance to get hot in the playoffs and make a run at that elusive 4th straight title. None of that is guaranteed, but its possible. But NDSU has undoubtedly entered a holding pattern for the time being. With Bohl the sky was the limit. I wrote with the zealous energy of a 14 year old boy who just discovered kissing about NDSU making the Division 1-A jump earlier this season. Thats still possible but much less likely without Bohl. NDSU now has to prove itself once again. I think they will do this but it costs them time and as I already stated, NDSU was at a peak moment, a once in a decade chance to make a serious bid for membership in a D-1A football conference. This window is now closed. It might reopen some day, but the truth is, the leadership at NDSU has no desire to make this move and Bohl’s departure will give them the perfect excuse to stay where there are.

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Some of those quotes in that ESPN article honestly disgust me. Not enough money to compete with Wyoming??? The only reason Wyoming can outcompete NDSU in terms of funding is because they ARE D1-A and have made it into a top flight football conference in the Mountain West. Also, if you want new boosters and new sources of revenue… am I the only one who remembers that North Dakota is currently flush with new oil money?? How do you think Oklahoma State has fueled their rise in college athletics? Obviously NDSU doesn’t have a T. Boone Pickens, but they also need a lot less than he would be able to provide. North Dakota current economic boon would easily fuel a healthy, ascendant NDSU Athletic’s Department if Gene Taylor felt the need to get out and raise funds. More than anything though this whole situation just makes me sad.

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Wyoming has been my favorite example for why NDSU needed to go D1-A. They’re a smaller school than NDSU located in a MUCH less populous area with fewer alumni and potential financial resources to draw upon so if they can do it theres no reason NDSU can’t.  I stole the idea from my dad who always used to bring it up. My dad’s dad, my grandpa, has a ranch in Wyoming so my dad had always sortof followed the Cowboys. I picked up on it and started to keep an eye on them myself. They were always an interesting story to me. A little guy who stumbled into a real football conference with luck and timing. By the time the Mountain West rose up into the top flight football conference it is today, Wyoming already had years of history with those teams and was even a founding member of the conference. So I want them to be good. I always got a kick out of it whenever Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo would become Wyoming fans for a week…

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…the same way I got gitty when they gave NDSU the helmet treatment on national TV. These were both two of my favorite little guys.

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(Deeefinitely took this picture on my cell phone in my parents basement… I got so excited to see NDSU up there with Ohio State, LSU, and Texas that I climaxed  took a picture of a show playing on ESPN News at 3 o’clock in the afternoon so that I could text it to people…)

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Anyway, I always wanted Wyoming to be the little engine that could at the top level. I wanted both schools to win.  I just never wanted one to succeed at the other’s expense. I didn’t want NDSU to be sacrificed for Wyoming’s success. I always fantasized about NDSU joining the Mountain West and striking up a rivalry with Wyoming. And hey, Craig Bohl used to beat Wyoming for football recruits. Kids would rather step down a half level and play for Bohl than play in the Mountain West. So it just kind of breaks my heart to see my favorite shining example of why NDSU needed to move up turn into the biggest obstacle on that path. 

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I was never afraid of all the “Bohl to Nebraska” rumors. Bo Pellini is a hot head and will get fired soon enough but Nebraska isn’t what it used to be and he’s a great coach… maybe better than anything they could get otherwise. He’s gonna get himself fired eventually. But Bohl was never gonna be the guy at his alma mater. He made his start there, worked his way all the way up to Defensive Coordinator, and got fired when his Head Coach was canned. Nebraska had their chance to have a younger Craig Bohl, there was no reason for them to fire Pellini and go after a 55 year old Bohl. At this point in his life I really felt like Bohl and made a niche for himself as the stalwart overachiever. The guy who found the diamonds in the rough in America’s hinterland and turned them into Champions. I just never stopped to think that he might be able to do the same thing somewhere else.

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I’m not mad at Wyoming. I’m going to cheer for Bohl and for the Cowboys. I just hate to see things coming to an end like this. NDSU now has to compete for those same recruits AGAINST Bohl rather than with him. They likely won’t take advantage of this fleeting opportunity to move up into a bigger conference at a higher level. They probably won’t even set themselves apart at their current, lower level by winning a fourth straight title. This just feels like a calamity of missed opportunities. I want bigger and better things for my hometown school. I never want to settle or stagnate, even if “stagnation” is winning national titles. Everything will be fine in the end. I don’t think Bohl will suffer the same fate as the last FCS Champion Head Coach to take over the Cowboys football program. In fact I can’t wait to watch him succeed there. And I feel better every day about the new head of NDSU’s football program. I just wish sometimes that fine wasn’t good enough for the guys at the top at NDSU. And I wish they understood that sometimes you have to move up in the world toward bigger and better things. If Coach Bohl has taught them that much by leaving, then maybe I can be happy in the end.

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Coping With Success: Conference Realignment and the North Dakota State Bison, Part One

Making the Leap

ndsu first title

I don’t think North Dakota State has ever been in a better place in terms of athletic success. Their football program is coming off of back to back national championships at the 1-AA level and is driving toward a 3-peat. The basketball team took at share of the conference regular season title last year and looks poised to win it all this year, and head to the NCAA tournament for the second time in school history and first since 2009. Fan morale and program prestige have never been higher. Hell, college game day was even in Fargo this year!

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However, the program is also at a crossroads. NDSU has succeeded so completely and so quickly since their move up to Division I sports in 2004 that I can’t help but hope for more, both for the continued success of the school athletically, and as a reward to the fans. In less than a decade of division 1 sports NDSU has seemingly attained every goal of a Division 1AA school, winning multiple football championships and making it to the big dance in basketball (along with numerous conference championships in the non-revenue sports). Moreover, as part of the stipulation for moving up from Division II, NDSU had to sit out of post-season play until 2008. So in only 5 years of post season eligibility, NDSU has won 2 football championships and is on pace for a 3rd consecutive. They have made an NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament appearance and look to be favored to make their second appearance this year. For all intents and purposes they have maxed out at the 1-AA level, and if the Athletic Department has any desire to continue to improve their product, rather than stagnate, they need to strongly consider moving to Division 1-A immediately. On top of that, they have made it their personal vendetta on the football field to beat 1-A schools year in and year out. Not only is NDSU the biggest fish in the 1-AA pond at the moment, they’ve already shown time and again they wouldn’t even be the little fish in lake that is 1-A football.

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NDSU’s stock cannot possibly get any higher, and as such the school is at the peak of its potential leverage when bidding to enter a new conference. Moreover, with the constant chaos and turmoil stemming from the restructuring of football conferences at the top collegiate level, conferences are constantly looking to strengthen themselves in order to buttress the walls and prevent pilfering of their choicest teams from their stronger neighbors, or are desperately looking to close the breaches opened by teams jumping ship for greener pastures. So, NDSU has a valuable product to sell, and the market is buying. Seems like a match made in Heaven right?

But wait… theres more.

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NDSU is in a great position right now, but if they wait even one year to take the plunge, this leverage will collapse like the proverbial house of cards. For all intents and purposes, the only sports that matter here [in that they are the only sports in most schools that ever turn a profit] are men’s basketball and football (and honestly for conference realignment the only sport that matters is football because of its astronomically disproportional profit margins, even in relation to basketball). Well, as already stated NDSU is in great shape on both fronts right now, but give it 12 months and the whole picture looks a lot more dismal.

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We’ll start with that basketball team I’m so high on. Ever argument for why this team will potentially be the most fun team to watch and most successful men’s basketball team in school history, can be spun on its head to point toward a disastrous rebuild that may be forthcoming. This team will be successful because of its veteran leadership. Six seniors returning to contribute big minutes for the team. The full starting lineup (4 seniors and 1 junior) will return from last year’s near championship team. This guys will be able to accomplish a lot this year. But you know what seniors can’t do? Play next year. Losing 6 seniors and 4 starters is not the way to make a bid for a conference championship or an NCAA tournament berth. Unless you’re John Calipari. Then it doesn’t really matter. But there ain’t no John Wall or Anthony Davis coming to NDSU. Not now, not ever. After this year’s run (which is sure to be an amazing ride) NDSU is looking at a minimum of 3 years rebuilding its basketball team. Maybe two if they pull the ol’ Soviet Olympic strategy and fill everyone full of HGH and steroids, but outside of that some rough years are ahead.

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Football has a similar, if not as drastic, problem. Craig Bohl has built an incredibly stable and successful program on the backs of a conservative, run oriented West Coast Offense, and a top notch defense. But he’s not going to coach forever. Every season he gets 1 year closer to retirement, and uncertainty for the NDSU program that he has made so great. Moreover, he might not even finish his career at NDSU. Personally I’m skeptical that he would leave at this point in his career, but it doesn’t stop me from getting the chills when the Nebraska rumors start flying.

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So as long as Bohl is there the program will survive no matter which conference or division they’re in. But it won’t always be on this level. Its not every year you have a chance to win your third consecutive national title. The football team will be losing some key seniors of its own this year. Namely, senior quarterback, anthropomorphized buffalo man, and potential Patron Saint of ball throwing Brock Jensen.

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There is no question when Brock leaves this team will take a step back. But its not just him. Billy Turner (the key to NDSU’s O Line) Ryan Smith (star receiver and Wes Welker impersonator) Marcus Williams (maybe the best defensive player in NDSU’s history and a sure fire NFL prospect at DB) Sam Ojuri (star RB and potential hobbit) Grant Olson (LB and viking god of tackling)… the list goes on and on. This NDSU team is senior laden and can’t help but take a step back next year. Maybe Bohl works some voodoo magic and gets them back into the playoffs and makes a deep run, but theres not another undefeated season on the books for next year’s squad.

So as the burgeoning economist in me elucidated, NDSU has a product to sell to D1-A football conferences right now but twelve months from now will it be the same story? Will we look like as appealing? Probably not. Now, you could say this pending step back could discourage potential suitors from taking NDSU this offseason BUT DAMMIT I WANT TO BE SOMEBODY’S NEXT DAY REGRET!!!! NOT A “Thank goodness I didn’t…”!!!!! But in all seriousness, a postseason freeze will likely be in effect whenever NDSU moves up and these deals, once signed, often move slow as molasses so its entirely possible that once NDSU is fully integrated in their hypothetical new conference. For me the more pertinent issue is being an appealing enough product while the negotiations are taking place. NDSU has a lot more leverage today than they will November 1, 2014, and THAT is what they need to capitalize on.

Does the Motivation Exist?

player_GeneTaylor2009NDSUDirectorofAthleticsColor“But I don’t understand… what could possibly be gained from improving our revenue sports???”

Certainly the fans would be in favor of this. Theres another problem though. In all likelihood the NDSU Athletic Department has no interest in moving up. I get the impression these guys are perfectly happy sitting where they are right now. Men’s NCAA basketball berth every 4-5 years. Beat up on lesser competition in football at 1-AA and play the Cinderella darling once a year when they beat a big school on the road. Complacency is plastered over these guys like vomit on a freshman dorm in August. That may seem harsh, but I promise you its not. The NDSU brass is notoriously conservative and have shot themselves in the foot with this upward trajectory before.

In 2004 while seeking out conferences to land in for their DII to DI-AA leap, NDSU got a pleasant surprise. They had a tentative offer to join not just another D1-AA conference, but the Western Athletic Conference. A Division 1-A program.

Moreover, this wasn’t the WAC of today that has schools like Denver fleeing like refugees and praising Heaven when NDSU’s own Summit League throws them a life raft and agrees to take them in. No. This was the WAC at the height of its power. When June Jones was taking Hawaii to BCS games and making Colt Brennan look like a Heisman winner. This was the WAC where Fresno State would play “anyone, anywhere, anytime”. This was the WAC which would started the Boise State perennial BCS hopeful who would famously beat “Big Game Stoops” in a BCS bowl game. This WAC had a football pedigree second to none outside of the power conferences. Tradition, prestige, current success. This was a conference schools would BEG to get in to (and Denver actually did… oh how the times change) and NDSU had a free invite sitting on the table AS A DIVISION ONE SCHOOL!! THEY COULD HAVE MADE AN IMMEDIATE DOUBLE LEAP OF DIVISIONS AND PLAYED DIVISION ONE FOOTBALL AS EARLY AS 2008!!!!!!

Nowadays, conference realignment has absolutely annihilated the WAC. For all intents and purposes they no longer exist as a legitimate conference, primarily because of the split of the football schools in 1998/99 to form the Mountain West Conference. So maybe you’re saying “AHA! Proves you wrong, Rick! If NDSU HAD gone to the WAC they’d be sitting on top of its deserated corpse right now, beating up on the likes of Seattle University! But to that I say *Lee Corso Voice* Not. So. Fast. Mister.

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Where they in the WAC NDSU would likely have been cherry picked by another conference before the collapse for their football prowess, or worse case scenario they could have simply gone independent for a few years while they tried to find a fit. However, none of this really matters, because as previously mentioned the NDSU brass, in their ultimate wisdom, turned down this offer and decided to stick to a lower division.

I have a feeling that a major motivation here was financial viability, but that, I think, is bullshit. A rising tide lifts all ships. Theres simply more money available at the top level ESPECIALLY in football. During Athletic Director Gene Taylor’s tenure,  during which time NDSU made its jump from DII to DI, NDSU’s athletic budget has tripled from $5million to $15million. Schools like Wyoming (a D1 and Mountain West school I feel is in almost every way comparable to NDSU) are working with around a $27 million budget. (link is old but its the best information I can find for free. Please no pitch forks and torches) In the grand scheme of things that isn’t a huge leap to make when you consider half of Wyoming’s budget (along with NDSU’s and all smaller college sports schools) comes from subsidies. With that in mind the $12 million gap only looks like a $6 million dollar gap which over time would disappear and easily be surpassed with conference football revenue (ever increasing with football television contracts) and gradual increase in fan support over time.

I really do think the fan support is there to support this team financially. I know its small, but these people are ferocious when it comes to their football. They’ll drive to Kansas, they’ll fly to Frisco Texas, they will follow their team anywhere. I know its a different story traveling for 1 primetime game a long distance away versus traveling similar distances for half your games but the fan base will grow. Its already moved up leaps and bounds from the DII days so I for one am not willing to discount the ability of the fanbase to increase its support for the teams they love. Plus, its highly unlikely that NDSU would make the jump alone anyway (they didn’t in 2004 and had they gone to the WAC they wouldn’t have either). South Dakota State is NDSU’s legal-life-partner-in-the-state-of-Massachusetts-and-scattered-others-but-definitely-not-Utah in this whole affair, and its likely any more NDSU made would be matched by SDSU for the betterment of both schools. Moreover, if you could convince the two Montana schools to come with you as well you would negate the vast majority of the geographic/travel issues. (I realize this means we’re dealing with the financial concerns of other institutions as well but SDSU, and the two Montana schools are no slouches in their own right. These schools are very much comparable to NDSU) But I’ll have more on that later.

And as far as losing money for the non football / basketball sports… who cares? They’re losing money right now (and for that matter they’re already technically at D1 anyway losing that money) so who cares if they keep losing money with a conference shift? Football’s profits WILL increase. Its actually impossible for them not to. Athletic conferences have a socialist format wherein all teams share league-wide profits and television money (thats what all this conference realignment bullshit has been about anyway, isn’t it?) so being in a bigger league can’t help but increase the profits of the Bison. And its not like that problem would be unique to NDSU. NOBODY turns a profit on volleyball or track or anything besides football and basketball. Moreover, only a handful of schools ever turn a profit in college sports anyway so I feel like that point is moot. As long as a program can shore up its budget enough to maintain operating costs at its current level there shouldn’t be a problem, and NDSU could easily and quickly get there in my opinion if Taylor and the NDSU brass would step up their game and make a real effort at it.

Personally I don’t think the brass has any willingness to do so, but maybe with the right fit, they’d realize that now, and only now, is their best chance to capitalize and make a move up.