MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani resigned today at the State Board of Higher Education meeting in Minot.

That's the official line.

Behind the scenes, the story is quite different.

"His contract was up for renewal," one source familiar with the decision-making process that led up to today's news told me. "It wasn't renewed."

That's a turn of events that some people might reasonably describe as getting canned. Fired. Shown the door.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

Per that contract, Bresciani gets a year of notice (it's good to be a higher education bureaucrat). The board added about six months to that (he'll be paid almost $560,000 in salary over those 18 months) and included some nonsense about his serving as a tenured professor at NDSU after that year is over.

If he ends up as a professor in Fargo, I'll eat my hat.

He'll almost certainly take a job somewhere else. The professor gig, as well as the talk of resignation, instead of a firing, is window dressing intended to grease the skids of change.

"He couldn't get along with anyone," my source told me. "He wasn't a team player."

That's putting it mildly.

From flying from Fargo to Bismarck in a university-owned plane to accuse lawmakers of underfunding his university to clashing with the North Dakota University System leadership, from friction with his own institution's faculty (he was censured by the NDSU Faculty Senate earlier this year) to fights with the Legislature and the news media over open records laws, Bresciani has had a turbulent tenure in Fargo.

It's surprising, to some, he lasted this long.

"If it weren't for that string of football championships he'd have been gone a long time ago," one state lawmaker remarked to me earlier today.

That seems about right..

Under Bresciani's leadership, NDSU was an institution that balked at raising a couple of million dollars to rebuild a science building that habitually caught fire and had no running water, but had no problem raising tens of millions of dollars for a new football practice facility.

The Bison football team won many championships in the last decade, and NDSU boosters claim that on-field success was good marketing for the university, but the university's fall enrollment numbers have declined nearly 11 percent since Bresciani first took over in 2010.

That in a state where the population has grown dramatically.

Don't get me wrong, NDSU has been and remains a solid school, home to a lot of important research, and a place where thousands of students receive decent educations.

But it's hard to discern anything in what will be Bresciani's roughly dozen years on the campus that was worth the headaches and chaos his often belligerent approach to his job created.

The SBHE is giving Bresciani a very dignified push out the door, and while there will be a lot of people singing his praises over the next year as he exits, I think we need to remember that, as a practical matter, it sure looked like a push.

Why is that important?

So we can hopefully pick a more important replacement as leader of one of North Dakota's most important institutions.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com.