NDSU football: No playoffs for Bison

It's over. North Dakota State's glorious history with NCAA Division II football ended Sunday afternoon when the playoff field of 16 did not include the Bison.

It's over. North Dakota State's glorious history with NCAA Division II football ended Sunday afternoon when the playoff field of 16 did not include the Bison.

The University of North Dakota, as expected, received the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region and will host No. 4 Pittsburg State (Kan.) next Saturday at the Alerus Center. Winona State (Minn.), the No. 2 seed, will host No. 3 Emporia State (Kan.).

Both Pittsburg and Emporia lost Saturday. But NDSU, ranked fifth in the last poll, did not close the criteria gap.

"It doesn't matter how close it was," said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. "That's how those things are decided. We won eight games but the facts are, we didn't get in."

It was close, however.


NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor figures the Midwest Region football committee couldn't get around one common opponent problem for NDSU: Pittsburg State beat St. Cloud State while St. Cloud beat NDSU.

"I think that was the deciding factor," Taylor said. "If we would have beaten St. Cloud, we would have gotten in no matter what."

Taylor was a member of the football committee, but had to remove himself from the final discussions because the Bison were directly involved. North Central Conference commissioner Mike Marcil took Taylor's place.

Taylor said he has no gripes with the selection system. The Bison were hoping their win over Division I-AA power University of Montana and losses to I-AA California-Davis and Division II ranked teams St. Cloud and UND would boost their strength of schedule argument.

Bohl, in retrospect, said he would play the same schedule. He said the experience of playing at Montana was something his players will always value.

"We want to schedule the best competition and if that doesn't mix with Division II, then maybe that's a reason to get out of Division II," Bohl said.

The Bison will begin a Division I reclassification period next season.

The selection process may also have ended something else for NDSU: its rivalry with UND.


Taylor said he didn't think it would, saying NDSU's win over Montana kept the Bison fifth in the region instead of sinking lower after losing to St. Cloud two weeks ago.

But UND head coach Dale Lennon said playing non-Division II teams may have hurt two teams on the bubble: NDSU and Central Missouri State.

Central Missouri, which beat Emporia on Saturday, finished 8-2. But the Mules played NAIA Langston University (Okla.) and 3-7 Lincoln University (Mo.) in non-conference games.

"One of the equations we have to figure out is when you play a I-AA that is not in a league that has an automatic qualifier, you get so many (strength of schedule) points," Lennon said.

NDSU will be an I-AA independent next year. The Bison, a dominating Division II team in the 1980s and early '90s, ended their affiliation with just one playoff appearance since 1999.

The Sioux, meanwhile, will be gearing for another home playoff game. They hosted three of them on their way to the 2001 national title.

"It's good to be home," Lennon said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546

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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