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Who's to blame for NCC fall?

The last dagger to the North Central Conference was applied Wednesday when the University of South Dakota announced it was moving to NCAA Division I. Only Nebraska-Omaha,...

The last dagger to the North Central Conference was applied Wednesday when the University of South Dakota announced it was moving to NCAA Division I. Only Nebraska-Omaha,

Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State and Minnesota State, Mankato have yet to announce their next move.

The NCC was once the premier Division II league in the country. It was strong and mighty. But so was the Roman Empire.

So who killed the NCC? In a mystery only Fred, Shaggy and Scooby can solve, we'll give it our best shot.

There are several suspects. In a timeline fashion, they are:

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- John Reynders, president, Morningside College. The Mustangs were the first to leave in 2002, saying they weren't good enough for the league. Sioux City, Iowa, is big enough to support a D-I program but the school lacked vision in athletics.

- Jim Fallis, then athletic director, Northern Colorado. The Bears started the new wave D-I movement by announcing their intentions in 2002. Losing Morningside was no big deal, but seeing the Bears go put a competitive dent in the league.

- Joe Chapman and Peggy Miller. The presidents of North Dakota State and South Dakota State tried unsuccessfully to rally the other schools to join them in a D-I move. This came at the annual Council of Presidents meeting at Arrowhead Resort in Alexandria, Minn., in 2002. Seeing no takers, the State Us moved together to D-I in 2003.

- Rob Bollinger, former associate athletic director at the University of North Dakota. With the school's president not gung-ho on D-I, enough of Bollinger's vision finally rubbed off on UND before Bollinger left for a similar job at Bemidji State. Thus, the school will begin its Division I reclassification next year.

- Bill Gross, athletic director, Augustana College. In a cunning move, the Vikings declared last month that they will seek membership in the NSIC. In doing so, they are beating St. Cloud, Mankato and Duluth to the punch.

So who dunnit?

The league could have survived without Morningside and Northern Colorado. Picking on Chapman and Miller is easy, but it wasn't their fault, either. UND finally succumbed to the pressure, leaving an AD like Gross in a no-win situation.

They didn't do it.

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The culprit was Walter Byers. He was the president of the NCAA in 1986 when the organization voted to reduce the maximum Division II scholarships from 45 to 40. His accomplice was Richard Schultz, the NCAA director from 1987-93, when the scholarships were reduced further.

That started a slide that hasn't stopped and the leader gets the blame.

Football is the marquee sport in the division and when the scholarships dropped, so did the talent. And, thus, the top football-playing schools bolted for a higher level.

Unfortunately, the NCC was the top D-II football league in the country.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546 or jkolpack@forumcomm.com

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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