NDSU is Not Moving to the FBS So Stop Suggesting It
The North Dakota State Bison beat a No. 13 ranked Iowa team last weekend and for the ten millionth time, people are suggesting that NDSU should play in the FBS.
One of the biggest arguments for NDSU joining the FBS, and quite possibly the only argument, is that, "North Dakota State is good enough to compete in the FBS."
This statement is likely true considering that the FBS has about 130 teams participating in it, and a lot of those 130 teams are terrible.
However, North Dakota State's ability to compete with FBS teams is completely irrelevant. The FCS is not some minor league system for the FBS where the Bison can just get, "called up."
All colleges and universities have the right to compete in the FCS or the FBS. It is their choice, if they can adhere to the guidelines the NCAA requires.
The NCAA puts out a manual every year. It is a very large 414 page document, single-spaced, with no pictures and a handful of charts. You can read it here [PDF].
In the manual, the NCAA states what a school needs to do in order to be a Division 1 school, a Division 2 school, and so much more.
There are additional requirements for schools who want to be in the FCS and requirements for schools that want to be in the FBS.
A team's record over a six year period is not a requirement.
So class, let's open our manuals to the bottom of page 344 (the page says 344 on the bottom but in the PDF document it is actually page 362) and see what North Dakota State needs to do in order to be a member of the FBS:
- The school needs to sponsor 16 athletic sports while adhering to Title IX as well. North Dakota sponsors 14 athletic programs. Hover your mouse over "sports" at the Bison athletic website to see what they are. In order to join the FBS, NDSU has to manage to come up with the money to add at least two more sports teams which includes a staff, a facility etc. That alone is a very large financial undertaking.
- NDSU has to schedule their football program to play 60 percent of its games against FBS opponents. Additionally, five of those games need to be played at home. There's a lot of issues here. First off, games are scheduled so far in advance so NDSU has no ability to play 60% of it's games against FBS teams anytime in the near future. On top of that, NDSU has proved to be such a tough opponent that FBS teams don't want to schedule NDSU. And the schools that do choose to play them certainly do not want to pay to travel to Fargo, North Dakota to play those games.
- NDSU needs to average 15,000 fans at home games for a two year period. The Fargo Dome holds nearly 20,000 people and fills up every game. NDSU would have no issues satisfying this requirement.
- The school needs to satisfy these two financial requirements:
(a) Provide an average of at least 90 percent of the permissible maximum number of overall football grants in-aid per year during a rolling two-year period
(b) Annually offer a minimum of 200 athletics grants-in-aids or expend at least $4 million on grants-in-aid to student-athletes in athletics programs.
There is a lot of random jargon here. Jackie Hobson, a Media Relations Director for the NCAA clarified these requirements. NDSU would need to use 90 percent of its football scholarships over a two year period (which they should have no issue doing). In the second point, NDSU would need to either give 200 total athletic scholarships out or spend $4 million annually in scholarships.
I reached out to NDSU Athletic Director Matt Larsen. He told me via email, "It is difficult to answer these two questions in isolation as there are many requirements for FBS reclassification outside of just financial aid commitment. As an institution currently competing at the FCS level we would not meet these two financial aid requirements (current FCS maximum scholarships is 63)."
Basically, due to the restriction on scholarships in football, it would be hard for NDSU to give out a total of 200 scholarships. FBS schools can give out 85 football scholarships as opposed to 63.
That means in their other 15 sports, they only need to give out 115 scholarships between the 15 sports which averages to less than eight per sport. That means NDSU needs to spend $4 million in total on their athletic scholarships. NDSU can't afford to spend that especially with recent budget cuts that have been made.
On top of the above guidelines, which NDSU is only able to qualify based on one, Matt Larsen also told me, "At this time North Dakota State is a proud member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and plans to remain competing at the Football Championship Subdivision level."
So yes it may be true that North Dakota State would be able to compete in a conference like the Big 12 and maybe even in the Big Ten. Regional hurdles aside, there is a lot that needs to be done in order to join the FBS and North Dakota State University is in no position to overcome those obstacles anytime in the near future.
It doesn't mean it isn't fun to think about and to consider the possibilities of what could be. It just isn't realistic right now.
If you are a Bison fan, consider a timeshare in Frisco, Texas. That's where the team's championship games are going to continue being played for a long time.