Records show UND's bid to host FCS playoff game far exceeded Weber State's
The Fighting Hawks were sent on the road in the first round, but it wasn't because the Wildcats offered the NCAA a higher financial guarantee.
GRAND FORKS — UND was sent on the road for the first round of the FCS playoffs, but it wasn't because of the bid it submitted to the NCAA.
Public record requests filed by the Herald show the NCAA left more than $85,000 on the table by placing the game in Ogden, Utah, instead of Grand Forks.
UND's bid guaranteed the NCAA $127,500. Weber State's bid guaranteed $41,683.50.
The FCS Playoff Committee put the game at Weber State anyway, a decision that irked UND athletic director Bill Chaves and Missouri Valley Football Conference commissioner Patty Viverito.
Weber State won the game 38-31 on Saturday.
"It's certainly a break in a long-standing precedence that I've understood for years that they make the matchups, and when the field is set, the committee opens envelopes with bids and the higher number hosts," Viverito said. "They've not made exceptions to that process even when facilities are disparate. That's been sacrosanct. It surprises me and disappoints me."
FCS Playoff Committee chair Jermaine Truax, the athletic director at Bucknell, said the game was placed in Ogden due to Weber State's better on-the-field resume. The Wildcats entered the playoffs with a 9-2 record. UND was 7-4.
"We're looking at several different factors," Truax told the Herald last week. "One is a financial factor. One is a team performance factor. One is a student-athlete experience factor. When we looked for North Dakota and Weber, everything was on par as far as the student-athlete experience, so what it boiled down to was financials and team performance.
"In this case, North Dakota put in a very strong financial bid. No issues. They put their best foot forward. Nothing wrong with the bid. It was a strong financial offer, although we don't disclose those numbers. Ultimately, what won the day was the team performance."
Homefield advantage is a major key in the FCS playoffs.
Last weekend, home teams went 7-1.
UND, especially, has been far better at home than on the road.
Since November 2018, the Fighting Hawks are 19-2 at home and 6-19 on the road.
Knowing that, UND put together one of the strongest bids in the field.
In 2019, UND guaranteed the NCAA $75,003.75. The Fighting Hawks lost out to a larger bid by Nicholls State that year. Nicholls State was awarded the playoff game and beat UND 24-6 in Thibodaux, La.
This year, UND raised that bid by almost $50,000.
Not only did UND's bid exceed Weber State's, it also surpassed other prominent schools.
UND guaranteed the NCAA roughly $20,000 more than North Dakota State, which submitted a bid of $106,875. North Dakota State ended up getting a bye, but had it lost its final regular-season game to UND, that bid would have come into play.
"We need to be clear on the rules of engagement," Chaves told the Herald last week. "It seems like, in talking with the past chair of the FCS committee, he can't recall or recollect a time in his tenure that after apples to apples, the best financial bid didn't win out.
"Moving forward, there are a couple of things you can do. You could seed 16 teams, so it takes this debate out of the committee hands, then you have a minimum amount to host that game. We have the financial data to put that process in place.
"What's odd is that part of the bracket has to do with saving money based on bus trips, but in this case, a financial bid wasn't chosen for the financial benefit of the tournament."
The minimum bid to host a first-round FCS playoff game is $30,000. Not every team that played in the first round submitted one.
Truax said the FCS community has a misnomer about the process that it's strictly about the financial ability.
"This has always been the way we look at it," Truax said. "What's unique about this is there hasn't been from a committee perspective a disparity like this between performance of the two teams. It's not always financial. It's not as simple as putting the highest bid and getting it. Nothing is weighted more than the other."