« Pinto's Points

A Delicate Balance

by Dan Gunderson

My blog post from last week regarding my thoughts on what the next Athletic Director for North Dakota State University should make his top priority ,drew the ire of some Bison fans.

Example A:

Example B:

I still believe that NDSU should play the University of North Dakota every year. People are going to disagree with that for various reasons. The "we don't need them" argument is one I find laughable, at best.

Sure, they have been pretty awful the last couple seasons. But, can you name me what conference Incarnate Word is from? Or what state for that matter? And, who did NDSU play the day ESPN's College GameDay came to Fargo?

What makes worse UND any worse than Incarnate Word or Delaware State University? You're going to tell me a team from Northeast Conference couldn't use a game against the FCS's highest profile school as much as UND?

The one that does stick out to me is the scheduling aspect of playing UND every year. The last couple seasons, the Football Championship Subdivision has made it possible for teams to schedule 12 games in a year. It is a quirk in the calender that teams have taken advantage of and the Bison are no different.

They will play a 12-game schedule in 2014, with one bye and an FBS opponent, Iowa State University, included. They also have six guaranteed home games this year. Next season, 2015, they are not as lucky. They only have 11 games and no FBS opponent.

While they still have the chance for six homes games next season, it would appear their shot at scheduling a FBS opponent is going to be a challenge. It is pretty late in the scheduling game, especially when it comes to games between FBS and FCS teams.

Think of how much trouble NDSU had filling up the void left by Montana State University running for the hills at the last second. They couldn't even find a FCS team to pick up the game, settling for Division II Ferris State.

The lack of an FBS opponent for NDSU is a big deal from a financial standpoint. Here is the guaranteed money NDSU received from three already played FBS opponents and two future opponents.

2011 Minnesota $375,000
2012 Colorado State $250,000
2013 Kansas State $350,000
2014 Iowa State $350,000
2016 Iowa $500,000
Information provided by NDSU Athletic Department

Having these games on the schedule is so important to improving the NDSU's athletic budget. In that regard, it is even more important than having home playoff games.

In the last three years, NDSU has had nine home playoff games. NDSU receives 15 percent of the net revenue from these games while the NCAA takes the rest. From these games, NDSU walked away with a combined $482,736.

NDSU is missing out on a solid paycheck in 2015 and past the 2016 game against the Hawkeyes, they have no other FBS game lined up.

How do you make up for that significant loss? Well, you really can't. You look at the landscape of FCS football and that guaranteed game is huge.

For NDSU, a team in a much different spot than most universities in FCS, you make up for the lack of FBS games by having a larger amount of home games on a schedule..

It would make sense in 2015 and '16 for NDSU and UND to play a game in Fargo first and follow that up with a game in Grand Forks. NDSU would get the sixth home game for 2015 and, since they already are promised $500,000 in 2016, they could handle only having five home games.

However, giving up that home game really rubs people the wrong way. I get that because usually that non-conference home game is as close to a for-sure win as you are going to get. The more wins you can get in the non-conference, the better.

They understand that if you are playing a FBS team, you are not always going to win. NDSU winning four straight FBS games is unreal and unprecedented for a FCS school. You don't want end up in the same situation that the University of Northern Iowa was in 2012.

That year, the Panthers played two FBS games and only five home games. They were pretty much out of the playoff hunt by week 5.

You don't want to put yourself in a box by making one non-conference game a year mandatory, especially when one of those games every other year is a road game. Seems like a bad idea.

The way I see it, though, is that it helps NDSU moving forward. One, you don't have to worry about scheduling a FBS team the year's NDSU plays UND at home. You worry about that on the year's you head to Grand Forks.

Second is that you avoid playing an FBS team every year. It is easier to beat a decent UND team than it would be trying to beat a bad FBS team.

Which is why I don't buy the "lowly UND" take. Surely, if they are so bad, wouldn't you want to play them year after year? You would be able to mark that game on the schedule as a win.

In reality, it scares people to play UND because they could lose. And NDSU losing to UND is something they don't want to have to relive.

UND is still a few years behind NDSU's football program. And that is why NDSU needs to capitalize now. Make it a regularly scheduled game for the simple fact you could come out the gate for the first five years and absolutely crush a team from the Big Sky.

By the time UND evens things out, this whole stigma that playing UND is a bad thing will have gone away and we will have wondered why there ever was a fight against playing UND.

It is a delicate balance. NDSU is in a position, now, to feel superior to UND. They are in a position, now, to demand back-to-back home games against UND.

In the future, they might not be so lucky. Make sure you take care of the future now.

You can follow Daniel "Pinto" Gunderson on Twitter at @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook. You can hear him on his weekly sports talk show on 740 The Fan and 740thefan.com called Fan Sports Saturday from 8-10 a.m. Pinto is a radio producer and talk show host within the Midwest Communications-Fargo company.