Fargo

There are 13 conferences that make up the membership of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision. As of Monday, five of the leagues have shut down the sport this fall and we’re still two weeks from the first day of practice.

That’s almost like having a baseball team of 10 players and you just hope two players don’t collide going after a fly ball.

The Southwest Athletic Conference pulled the plug late Monday afternoon, joining the Colonial Athletic Association, the Patriot League, Ivy League and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Four of those have members who are rarely a threat to play into December with the Ivy shunning the playoffs altogether.

Although not ideal by any means, the fact that college football is on course for nonconference matchups doesn’t make that a deal breaker for seeing a season through to Frisco, Texas.

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The CAA? Now that’s alarming.

It doesn’t mean everybody is on board. James Madison and Elon both said they’re going to try to put together an independent schedule. Villanova is a maybe.

Everything is such a maybe.

That includes the very reason for the Football Championship Subdivision. To play for a championship. That of course comes in early January at Toyota Stadium in Frisco.

There are currently 81 teams still in the conversation for the bracket of 24 playoff spots. With five leagues out of the picture, how is it even fair to have a tournament? And the chances of the NCAA conducting a playoff at the current rising rate of coronavirus infections in the country seems remote at best.

But, assuming there is some sort of season, there is a solution.

Go back to the future.

Let us decide. Yes, us, the media. We did it for decades, let’s do it again.

North Dakota State’s first three national titles were ultimately decided on paper, not on the field. The “college division” national champ in the 1960s came via voters in the Associated Press and United Press International polls.

Man, we had some power.

The front page sports story from Dec. 14, 1969 detailing NDSU’s 30-3 win over Montana in the Camellia Bowl in Sacramento, Calif., was all about the Bison laying a “solid claim to No. 1 ranking.”

“North Dakota State University, which claimed the No. 1 tag on the basis of opinion,” the story went, “proved it on the field here Saturday with a 30-3 victory over Montana’s Grizzlies.”

NDSU went into the game ranked No. 1 and Montana No. 2. A few days later, the Bison were crowned national champs when the polls became official. It was their third national title joining the 1965 and 1968 teams.

In all three of NDSU’s titles in the '60s, the Bison went into their bowl game with a No. 1 ranking, so a victory assured they would remain there. But what if No. 15 Arkansas State beat the Bison in the 1968 Pecan Bowl? In 1965, NDSU beat No. 13 Grambling in the Pecan Bowl in Abilene, Texas.

“Old Buffalo Bill just thought he killed off all of those Bison,” the first paragraph in the Abilene Reporter-News story said. “A romping, stomping herd from North Dakota State University thundered on the turf of Public Schools Stadium on a windy Saturday afternoon and left in their wake scarce remains of the mountain men from Grambling College.”

If the NCAA shuns the playoffs, turn the championship trophy over to us. I’m not going to say I’m going to write a football story like our forefathers of the 1960s, but we can vote.

Or maybe the Division I Football Championship Committee takes matters into its own hands and instead of picking a field of 24 in mid-November at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis it picks a top 10 via Zoom. The No. 1 team claims a national title.

If NDSU happens to be that team and JMU is No. 2, I already have my lead paragraph written.

“The 40-minute Zoom call was a Dukes of Hazzard to the mountain men from James Madison. The rematch on paper went much like the fierce battle fought on the prairie of north Texas just under 11 months ago, setting off an explosion of NDSU fans hustling and bustling to the local liquor stores for cases and cases of Bud Light.”