(Note: This is the fourth in an occasional series of columns and blogs in which InForum's Mike McFeely will explore the possibility of North Dakota State's football team moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision.)
FARGO — Football coach Matt Entz sounded supportive of North Dakota State playing in the Football Bowl Subdivision, a step above the level at which the Bison currently play, in a local radio interview.
The second-year head coach, whose team plays rival South Dakota State on Saturday at the Fargodome in its spring regular-season finale, hasn't previously said much publicly about a potential move to FBS for NDSU, but said on the "Bison Football Radio Show with Matt Entz" this week, "If we're FBS, I think we'd continue to have great success."
Entz was responding to a question from a listener of Bison 1660, who asked whether a move to FBS from their current home in the Football Championship Subdivision would keep top players from transferring to bigger schools.
NDSU lost All-American linebacker Jabril Cox to LSU after the 2019 season and saw starting running back Adam Cofield transfer to FBS Western Kentucky after the Bison's lone game last fall. Last week, starting cornerback Josh Hayes left the Bison team in part because he hopes to transfer to a higher-level program closer to his home state of Florida.
With the NCAA set to OK the one-time transfer rule for all sports, which will allow college athletes to switch schools once without penalty during their careers, FCS coaches are concerned their teams will become farm teams for FBS programs.
Cox, Cofield and Hayes transferred under the NCAA's graduate transfer rule. NDSU has also benefitted from graduate transfers, signing defensive end Brayden Thomas and quarterback Quincy Patterson II last winter.
"Does Adam Cofield go to Western Kentucky then? That's a lateral move. Probably not," Entz said. "He's here and he's playing other FBS programs. It's hard to tell a kid, 'No, that's a bad idea' when all he's trying to do is be as competitive as possible. 'I want to play at another level. I want to see if I can compete at that level.'
"Well, if we were FBS I think we'd continue to have great success and there would be even fewer schools they could say they'd like to go to."
Entz said it's likely Cox would've left NDSU even it played in a Group of Five FBS league because LSU is a "blue blood" that plays in the Southeastern Conference.
But he said the FCS label is one that FBS teams the Bison commonly recruit against in the Mid-American Conference or the Mountain West Conference use against them.
"It's one letter, but it's a big letter — the 'B' and the 'C,'" Entz said. "We know the MAC and the Mountain West, the 'C' is what they recruit against. They don't recruit against NDSU and our success, it's just that we're FCS.
"We're as mid-major as any of them. You look at our budget, you look at our performance .... You look at (freshman) Courtney Eubanks, a three-star cornerback recruit out of Florida. We're recruiting against these people and winning already. I'm sure a lot of them would prefer us not to be FBS because it would become much more difficult.
"I can just imagine the areas it would open up for us in recruiting."
The Bison have had success against FBS schools. Early in the Bison's Division I era they beat Ball State and Central Michigan of the MAC and Colorado State of the Mountain West. More recently, they've defeated Power Five teams like Minnesota, Iowa State, Iowa and Kansas State.
When asked in the past about a potential move to FBS, school president Dean Bresciani has said FCS is NDSU's "sweet spot."
"As an institution, our job is to always look at opportunities that can help the profile, the brand, the value of the institution," Larsen said.
I've written and talked extensively about NDSU's interest in and chances of moving to FBS, calling the step up "a moonshot" but urging the school's administration and athletic program to be ready if the opportunity arose.
Here are links to other columns and blogs:
- McFeely: Time for Bison football to plan for moonshot to FBS
- McFeely Mess podcast: More FCS conference realignment coming? Augustana to the WAC? NDSU to the MWC? It's all on the table in this podcast
- McFeely blog: Boise State news means it's time for Bison administration to put FBS prep into overdrive
- McFeely: Not so fast on NDSU to FBS, my friend