Should North Dakota State Move Up to the FBS?

Should North Dakota State Move Up to the FBS?


For the fifth consecutive year FCS North Dakota State Bison have beaten an FBS team. FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) and FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision), represent the two parts of Division 1 football. FBS schools are restricted to offering 65 college scholarships while FCS schools are permitted 85. Thus, an FBS team should have an advantage when playing an FCS team, but the Bison have turned that theory on its head time and again.

Fifth Consecutive Victim: Iowa State

This year, Iowa State from the Big 12 Conference was trampled by the Bison, losing 34 to 14 in an “upset.” Representing the Missouri Valley Football Conference, the Bison are also three-time defending FCS champions. They played a Cyclones team that went 3-9 last year, but clearly were overmatched by their FCS foes.

Calling the contest an upset does not recognize how good North Dakota State is as the Bison out gained their opponents 503 to 253 yards according to St. Louis Today. Moreover, knocking off Kansas State, Colorado State, Minnesota and Kansas in successive years has demonstrated that the Bison certainly are no fluke.

Time to move up to the FBS, right?

Well, that’s always a possibility, something more than a dozen schools have done in the past few years. The Bison play in the Fargodome, located right on campus, an enclosed stadium seating 19,000 for football. Right there, NDSU has the facility to move up and its average attendance of 18,622 last year provides yet another reason to make the transition.

Big 12 Conference?

Because of the school’s location and its ability to take down Power 5 conference teams, some have suggested that a move to the Big 12 Conference is in order. But this is a conference that averages 58,899 fans per game, ranging from 37,884 for Kansas to 98,976 for Texas.

NDSU would need to seat at least twice as many fans for football as it does now, with a three-fold increase more in line with what the smaller Big 12 stadiums hold. Besides, a team can only move up if it is invited by an FBS conference. It is doubtful that the Big 12 would send out such an invite.

Two Conference Choices

One of the closest smaller conferences for NDSU would be the Mid American Conference, what stretches from Illinois and Michigan to New York. The Bison would have to travel considerable distances to play a number of conference foes, a cost that would be magnified across its entire sport offerings. That’s assuming the Bison would also leave The Summit League where its remaining athletic programs engage in conference sports.

Another conference that might work out is the Mountain West Conference, composed of teams from Wyoming, Idaho and down to New Mexico and over to California as well as Hawaii. That would make a big distance to cover too, especially when games against the California schools and Hawaii are scheduled.

An option for NDSU might consider is to wait until a few other closer in programs express interest in moving up. Both Montana and Montana State draw more fans to their games than NDSU; both programs consistently show success on the gridiron. A WAC invite to the Montana teams, at least for football only, could make a Bison FBS move a reality.

Conference Transition…Again

Regardless, moving up to the FCS may not be a likely scenario in the short term, but it wouldn’t be the first time the Bison have made a transition. In 2005, NDSU began the transition from Division II to Division I, completing the move by joining the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2008. Keeping the rest of its athletic program in The Summit League and making a football-only move may be the best option when making another transition.

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Categories: NCAA Football