FARGO — The North Dakota State athletic department may have just seen a $650,000 check fall down a drain at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. That's how much the guarantee is for NDSU's football game at the University of Oregon.
In a bombshell of a Thursday afternoon, the Big Ten Conference canceled all nonconference games and speculation on social media was Oregon's Pac-12 Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference won't be far behind. The Athletic reported the Pac-12 "will make that decision in the coming days."
It would mean NDSU's Sept. 5 game at Oregon would be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen deferred comment to another day. In a text message, he said, "nothing new at this point."
The Power Five conference-only games will have some serious fall-out issues with the rest of college football. Many FCS programs were counting on the big guarantee checks to help fund their departments, especially against the Big Ten.
Northern Iowa was slated to make the same $650,000 as NDSU in a game at Iowa. South Dakota State was to make $515,000 in a game at the University of Nebraska. Southern Illinois just lost $500,000 for its game at Wisconsin and Illinois State was to make $450,000 at Illinois.
If the Oregon game is indeed axed, NDSU's opener would be slated for Sept. 12 against Drake University (Iowa). The Sept. 19 home game against North Carolina A&T at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome is still on.
The NDSU-Oregon game is the Bison's first against an FBS opponent since the 2016 upset at the University of Iowa. NDSU is carrying a six-game winning streak against FBS teams into the game and a 9-3 overall record against the FBS. The last loss to an upper-subdivision opponent was in 2009 at Iowa State.
The Big Ten, in a statement, said in part, "We are facing uncertain and unprecedented times, and the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, game officials, and others associated with our sports programs and campuses remain our number one priority. To that end, the Big Ten Conference announced today that if the Conference is able to participate in fall sports (men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball) based on medical advice, it will move to Conference-only schedules in those sports. ... This decision was made following many thoughtful conversations over several months between the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, Directors of Athletics, Conference Office staff, and medical experts including the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee."
It will make for an interesting schedule. Indiana opens Sept. 4 with a conference game against Wisconsin, then doesn't play until Oct. 10 against Maryland. Minnesota plays Iowa on Sept. 18 and is off until Oct. 3 at Maryland.
Oregon is NDSU's biggest threat to its FCS-record 37-game winning streak. The last Bison loss was a 33-21 defeat at SDSU in 2017. The Bison went 15-0 in 2018 and 16-0 last year.