(Note: This is another 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 — The upper echelon of college football is about to change drastically, an earthquake whose ripples will be felt at the lower echelons. Maybe even the Football Championship Subdivision. Maybe even at North Dakota State.
Reports this week that Texas and Oklahoma are attempting to leave the Big 12 and join the Southeastern Conference sent shock waves through college football. Two of the biggest brands in the sport, and the pillars of the Big 12, appear to be taking their mountains of cash to the SEC.
Why this might matter in Fargo is all about the dominoes that are about to tumble.
Conference realignment never happens in a vacuum. One move begets another begets another. And so on.
Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 means more conference movement is inevitably afoot. And the more programs move from league to league means the more openings will occur in conferences that might find NDSU as an attractive option.
The Mountain West, for example.
Yes, this topic again. You know my stance. I believe NDSU's administration, from president Dean Bresciani to athletic director Matt Larsen to everybody in between and below, should be prepared for the football program to make the jump from FCS to the higher-level Football Bowl Subdivision if the opportunity presents itself in the form of an invitation from an attractive conference.
The Mountain West, for example.
To be clear, as I've written prior, this is a moonshot. There would have to be specific conditions for NDSU to make such a move and reaching those conditions might be tricky. The invitation might have to be for football only, for example, which makes a move to FBS even a more difficult moonshot.
But when the dominoes begin falling and the decimated Big 12 invites new members (or dissolves) and big conferences poach teams from other leagues, and smaller leagues poach each other, that's when NDSU's chance might arrive.
It might come sooner than expected.
If a Boise State or Colorado State or Air Force bolt from the Mountain West, maybe a phone in north Fargo rings.
Whether the powers-that-be at NDSU are ready for that call is one question.
Whether they even want the call is another.
As I've written about the NDSU-to-FBS pipe dream since mid-December, I've learned that some in the athletic department are all-in while some are far more pragmatic (realistic?). What I haven't gotten a good sense of where the most important person in the equation — Bresciani — stands.
Full disclosure: I haven't asked. And recently, given the news the president is being forced out of his job by the end of 2022 at the latest, the media gun-shy Bresciani probably isn't in the mood to talk about athletics.
And that's a problem. With Bresciani being a lame duck, and with a board of higher education that is keeping him on a tight leash, it's not clear that the president cares all that much about whether NDSU's football program is FCS or FBS.
And if he does care, how much does he feel like pushing the issue? Bresciani is in line to get a tenured teaching position at NDSU after he exits the president's office, and the petty board of higher ed could pull that rug out from under him.
In other words, this cosmic realignment of conferences is coming at precisely the worst time.
When asked in the past, Bresciani has said FCS is the school's "sweet spot."
Whether that is still his stance remains to be seen. Larsen, the school's athletic director, has been measured when asked about FBS. He told WDAY-TV's Dom Izzo that it's his job to "look at opportunities that can help the profile, brand and value of institution."
It's assured other schools — probably in Group of 5 leagues like the Mountain West and the American Athletic Conference — are prepping themselves for the coming shakeup. Could Cincinnati get in the Big 12? Could Central Florida get an invitation to the Atlantic Coast Conference? Could Boise State move to the Big 12 or the a re-tooled AAC?
The question in Fargo is, are the honchos at NDSU doing the same prep work? Or do they even care?
To miss such an opportunity, if it did come, would be a shame.