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Jeff Kolpack column: Testimonials help calm D-I nerves

What we learned from the war with Iraq is Americans' appetite for patience. Or lack thereof. The administration said many times that "it will take as long as it takes." Vice President Dick Cheney said last fall it will be weeks rather than months...

What we learned from the war with Iraq is Americans' appetite for patience. Or lack thereof.

The administration said many times that "it will take as long as it takes." Vice President Dick Cheney said last fall it will be weeks rather than months.

A few days into the conflict, people were freaking out about it not being over. Well, it took weeks rather than months.

Patience has also been a preaching of NDSU's war with Division I.

The administration told us last fall when it announced the move that there will be many tough days ahead. Athletic director Gene Taylor told us in 2001 that "it doesn't happen overnight and we have to be willing to understand that."

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Taylor said the move will take years to implement, not months.

Well, as the Big Sky Conference made it clear to NDSU over the winter, it will indeed take years instead of months.

That's why bringing in guys like Troy State (Ala.) athletic director Johnny Williams is valuable. It may keep people from freaking out over NDSU's D-I move.

Williams saw Troy State grow from Division II to Division I in the 1990s.

In 1993, when Troy announced its decision, it was a successful Division II school, did not have a Division I league to join, made the move for institutional reasons and had many doubters in the city of Troy.

Sound familiar?

Taylor, who befriended Williams at an NCAA convention, brought Williams to Fargo this week to, in part, speak to campus and booster groups.

"I'm hoping my trip will make people feel at ease," Williams said.

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The hardest aspect, he said, is finding a league. It took Troy three years before the Atlantic Sun Conference accepted the Trojans.

The city got behind the team giving the school $4.5 million to upgrade facilities. It viewed the money as an economic investment.

Williams said it was cash well spent. The Trojans averaged 13,402 fans in football last year, or about what NDSU averages. Its alumni chapters grew from four to 36 and many more people now know about Troy, Ala.

He said NDSU's finances are close to this year's Troy budget.

But Troy also has advantages that NDSU doesn't, such as location, recruiting area and a smaller reclassification period.

"Yeah," Williams said, "but you'll be playing people in the same region. NDSU is successful at a national level. That won't change much, especially with the mass communications and technology. They've already started to recruit the Chicago area. What we saw is it broadened our recruiting base."

Looking long-term, he said, North Dakota needs a Division I university. And he reiterated the words Taylor said in 2001.

"There are struggles," he said. "The reason there are hurdles is they don't want everyone to go Division I."

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It remains to be seen if NDSU fans can handle years of hurdles.

Readers can reach Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546 or jkolpack@forumcomm.com

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