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NDSU fulfills its Division I dream

Three years of planning, including two lengthy consultants' reports, officially ended in August 2004 when North Dakota State entered Division I athletics.

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Three years of planning, including two lengthy consultants' reports, officially ended in August 2004 when North Dakota State entered Division I athletics.

It was the end of a journey that essentially began in the early 1990s when talk of moving to Division I first surfaced. It didn't get serious until NDSU President Joseph Chapman arrived in 2000.

NDSU hired Carr Sports Associates in September 2001 to determine the school's feasibility for Division I. One month later, Chapman said in his annual State of the University address that a Division I athletic program could be in NDSU's future.

The Carr team gave the school a favorable rating in January 2002. In a timeline that remained consistent throughout the process, the school then hired the Minneapolis consulting firm Conventions, Sports & Leisure the following month to conduct a market study.

CS&L projected that NDSU would potentially be a financial fit for a move up. That was in June 2002.

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By August, Chapman and NDSU Athletic Director Gene Taylor announced the school's intention to reclassify to Division I.

A main reason: Chapman's challenge to all university departments to find the next level. For athletics, that meant bolting Division II.

"The point is, it may not even be right, but it is true your athletics program and your institution are totally intertwined," Chapman said. "I knew it was an issue for us."

It also means a higher budget. NDSU is slated to spend about $7.7 million on athletics this year -- an increase of about $1.7 million from last year.

The football program is part of the fledgling Great West Football Conference. Other NDSU sports will compete as independents. The school hopes to join a league such as the Big Sky Conference or the Mid-Continent Conference in the near future.

The transition promises to be difficult. The Bison soccer team, for instance, will play all 17 of its games on the road against Division I foes. The volleyball team will have four home matches, not including an exhibition against a team of NDSU alumni.

Only football will have the usual assortment of home games. The names are new, however.

The Bison hosted Valparaiso (Ind.) University Aug. 28 in what was NDSU's first Division I game.

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It took several months for Taylor to put together NDSU's first Division I schedule. That will probably be an exception; NDSU already has five home games set for 2005.

Moreover, volleyball and soccer will have more home contests as they get deeper into the Division I process.

"We've asked our fans to be patient. There will be a growing process," Taylor said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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