Letter: Bison move to the FBS easier said than done

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This month’s convincing victory over the Montana State University Bobcats earned the North Dakota State University Bison their ninth NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision national championship in 11 years. The win will no doubt cause some interesting rhetoric concerning a potential departure of the Bison football program from the FCS ranks to ramp up in earnest.

Four words can best describe a move of NDSU to the Football Bowl Subdivision – or FBS ranks. Such a move would definitely be easier said than done. If NDSU one day would happen to make the jump to the NCAA’s football big time of the FBS, I would believe the Bison would eventually be considered a mid-major program – probably.

In order for such a move to happen, I believe the following would have to have either taken place, or be well on their way to taking place:

  1. An FBS conference would be needed. In order for NDSU to make the jump, they will have to be invited for membership by one of the NCAA’s FBS conferences.
  2. NDSU would need FBS caliber support facilities. I realize that plans for an indoor practice facility for the Bison are nearing fruition.
  3. NDSU’s current student population and academics might not meet an FBS conference’s standards.
  4. Possibly a new stadium.

    • It is my opinion that a new stadium would probably need to have a capacity of some 30,000 to 50,000 in order to generate the needed revenue for an FBS program.
    • Would we be talking about a new on-campus football stadium, or a replacement for the Fargodome?
    • Given today’s economic and political climates, getting a new stadium would definitely be a tall order. Obtaining any funding from Bismarck would be a non-starter, dead on arrival proposal at the North Dakota Legislature. I would anticipate that the Grand Forks legislative delegation would likely lead the opposition to a new NDSU football venue. Followed closely by many of the outstate legislators.
  5. The North Dakota Board of Higher Education would have to approve not only the move of NDSU to the FBS for the Bison football program; but eventually, they would have to approve any plan for a new stadium.

To note, I personally do not favor a move to the FBS ranks for the Bison. I think the biggest bone of contention is does NDSU want to trade the opportunity to compete for a true national championship each year by staying in the FCS ranks? Or, does NDSU want to trade all of this for maybe an appearance at some insignificant weekday afternoon December bowl game that nobody cares about?
Olson, Fargo, is an occasional contributor to The Forum’s opinion pages. E-mail him at

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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