Moving on up? Three FCS programs consider going to FBS, but NDSU officials say they're fine with where program is at

The debate is on at the University of Montana, Appalachian State and Texas State. In a sense, it's like a good old campaign commercial. On one side is to remain in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision side. It's the safe bet, especial...

The University of Montana
The University of Montana could be moving from the Big Sky to the Western Athletic Conference. File photo

The debate is on at the University of Montana, Appalachian State and Texas State. In a sense, it's like a good old campaign commercial.

On one side is to remain in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision side. It's the safe bet, especially for the success those three have had over the years, albeit Montana and Appalachian at a higher level.

On the other side is a possible move up to the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision.

It's more than moving from 63 to 85 scholarships. It's an upgrade, in most cases, in facilities and overall athletic budget, a check of Title IX compliance and in most cases a new venture in scheduling.

It's a party North Dakota State wants no part of.


"I don't think it's a practical, intelligent or appropriate move for North Dakota State," said NDSU President Dean Bresciani.

The impetus for FBS change started last year with the shifting of major conferences, a domino effect that has left the Western Athletic Conference looking for members. Montana is an obvious recruiting target for the WAC.

Texas State would leave the Southland Conference. Appalachian announced last month it is conducting a feasibility study to determine if it will make the FBS move. It did a similar study in 1998 and decided against it.

The Associated Press reported Georgia Southern is conducting internal discussions into a possible move up. All of it has NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor surprised.

"Absolutely," he said. "I don't know how some are going to make it."

Texas State has already established a marketing campaign called "The Drive," an effort to improve the overall caliber of the program to ready it for FBS. A task force consisting of schools administrators, faculty and students, key donors and community representatives is in full force.

The projected move date, according to the school's website, is 2012. The Bobcats have not been invited to a conference, but the school did make a formal presentation to the WAC last month in Dallas.

Montana reportedly was an interested onlooker. An e-mail sent from Montana athletic director Jim O'Day to a booster surfaced on the Internet detailing the obstacles that would face the Grizzlies if such a move were made.


O'Day later admitted the letter was indeed his. He wrote Montana generates $4.2 million in ticket sales, twice that of the $2.1 million of Appalachian State.

And the general consensus by some administrators is if Montana - the most profitable of all FCS schools - is questioning if it can't afford it, how can anybody else afford it?

"It's a very expensive move," Bresciani said.

Both Bresciani and Taylor said they have not heard much support for NDSU to think about a move.

"What I'm actually hearing is the opposite," Bresciani said. "People are happy that we're playing at the level we're at. We have a national presence. ... I think fans enjoy the level that we're at."

NDSU's athletic budget this year is $14 million and Taylor estimates it would take a budget in the low $20 million range to reach the low end of the Sun Belt Conference - considered a mediocre FBS league.

"We would need several million to get to the bottom of those conferences," he said. "It will certainly be interesting to see how this all unfolds, but we've had no discussion."

NDSU, also, just completed its move to NCAA Division I while Montana and Appalachian State have experienced FCS success for years. NDSU signed a seven-year contract when it joined the Missouri Valley Football Conference that would require the school to pay a $500,000 buyout if it left before 2015.


League commissioner Patty Viverito said she's heard of no member schools talking about an FBS move. She said a mission statement the President's Council put together last year to pledge its allegiance to FCS was re-affirmed at the annual meeting in June.

"I've heard of nobody backing off from that, even in the wake of the latest round of possible defections," she said.

Plus, the Missouri Valley is part of a reality check of what could happen. Western Kentucky, the 2002 national Division I-AA (now FCS) champion, left the league after the 2006 season for FBS and the Sun Belt Conference and the Hilltoppers are the doormat of the entire division.

They're 0-5 this year, have lost 25 straight and are 2-27 since starting an FBS schedule in 2008. That, despite spending $50 million on upgrades to its football facilities.

"They're a poster child of be careful what you wish for," Viverito said.

At NDSU, it's a wish that is nowhere to be found.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack's NDSU media blog can be found at

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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