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FNS Photo by Carrie Snyder North Dakota State head football coach Chris Klieman watches the team from the sidelines during the spring game at the Fargodome on April 26 in Fargo.

North Dakota State not finding FBS opponents

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FARGO — It was September of 2011 when North Dakota State and the University of Iowa signed a contract to play a football game in 2016. It was the last time the Bison finalized a deal with a Division I FBS program.

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The nearly three years of no further action for the big guarantee game represents the longest scheduling void in NDSU’s Division I FCS history when it comes to landing FBS games. The reasons are mostly theory in nature, but the Bison’s success against FBS programs combined with an inconsistent FBS scheduling model hasn’t helped.

NDSU is 7-3 in those games, including four straight wins against Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado State and Kansas State.

“There are a lot of teams that I’ve talked to that have dates that match up and want an FCS team but they don’t want us,” said Jeremy Jorgenson, NDSU’s director of broadcasting, who is doing most of the football scheduling legwork.

Hang in there, says Missouri Valley Football Conference commissioner Patty Viverito, who said NDSU has had “far greater” challenges scheduling nonconference FCS games than FBS games.

Why?

“Because most FBS teams don’t think they’re going to lose and most FCS teams don’t think they can win either,” she said. “Even with the history of all those wins, I think most FBS teams look on paper and say we can use this as pretty good competition, but surely we should be able to beat them. I know it’s getting harder and harder to surprise people, but I don’t think North Dakota State has had a problem getting guarantee games.”

Plus, Viverito said, NDSU brings a lot of fans to out of town games and FBS athletic directors are just as interested in selling tickets as they are winning football games.

New head coach Chris Klieman said he would like to maintain NDSU’s FBS scheduling philosophy of trying to find a program in the Midwest. It helps for recruiting and it helps for NDSU’s traveling fan base.

The Bison are not playing an FBS team in 2015, instead opting for a road game at Montana as part of a home-and-home contract with the Grizzlies. The Big Sky Conference power is coming to the Fargodome on Sept. 20.

So that leaves 2017 and beyond as the next possible years for an FBS game. The University of Minnesota would be the preferable site for all involved with the Bison program, especially the fans, but the Gophers don’t appear to be anxious to schedule NDSU. The Bison are 2-1 against Minnesota.

“It’s not completely off the table,” Jorgenson said of the Gophers. “It’s hard to match up dates with them right now, but it’s not completely off the table.”

Minnesota has nonconference FBS games scheduled with Oregon State and Middle Tennessee State in 2017 and Oregon State in 2018. The only FCS games the Gophers have on their football website are Indiana State in 2016 and South Dakota State in 2019.

Certainly, there could be agreements with other programs, but they have yet to be released. Viverito said Western Illinois is back on the Gophers schedule after Minnesota originally dropped the Leathernecks in the wake of a Big Ten Conference movement to not play FCS teams.

That philosophy appears to be dying. Credit supply and demand for that.

Viverito said schools from lower-end FBS conference like the Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences hiked their guarantee demands knowing FCS schools were most likely off the table. The Big Ten publicly discussed strength of schedule to better position its teams for the upcoming four-team FBS College Football Playoff.

The reality is most of the league will rarely reach that status, if ever.

The last time the Gophers won a conference title was 1960, and the last Rose Bowl appearance was 1962. But, if Minnesota isn’t interested in NDSU, what teams are out there?

“We’ve had conversations with just about everybody,” Jorgenson said.

He said those discussions included Nebraska and Colorado, but it appears a game with either program won’t happen. Both do not have FCS programs on their future schedules, with the Cornhuskers listing games through 2020 and CU through 2016.

Iowa State — NDSU’s FBS opponent on Aug. 30 — has scheduled Northern Iowa in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019 and SDSU in 2018. Kansas has SDSU in 2015 but no other FCS games through 2020.

Wisconsin, Kansas State, Northwestern and Iowa do not list future schedules.

Even if one of those schools came to Jorgenson tomorrow and said it wanted a game, it probably wouldn’t get immediate attention. NDSU is in an athletic director transition with Gene Taylor on his way to Iowa. A search committee will begin reviewing candidates on July 23.

“I think we’re waiting on a new athletic director to decide what we want to do,” Klieman said.

Said Jorgenson: “We have to wait for that process to play out. We have a few things in the hopper right now, but we’re on hold.”

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