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Big Sky talks with UND are ongoing

GRAND FORKS -- Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton said Monday morning that there has been no conference offer extended to the University of North Dakota as a result of last week's conference presidents' meeting.

GRAND FORKS -- Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton said Monday morning that there has been no conference offer extended to the University of North Dakota as a result of last week's conference presidents' meeting.

However, league presidents are apparently receptive to the idea.

The Big Sky president's council met last week in Park City, Utah, with the league's future, notably potential expansion, at the forefront of the agenda.

"The presidents' discussions involving the University of North Dakota were extremely positive," Fullerton said. "That discussion is ongoing. There's no offer and nothing to report. A lot of it is really going to depend on what the University of North Dakota wants to do. Some of it depends on (UND President Robert Kelley) and 'what's your vision of you and your future?'"

UND athletic director Brian Faison said the university is "doing due diligence" and gathering information regarding a potential move to the Big Sky.

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"We've had some ongoing dialogue," Faison said. "Certainly, we appreciate the interest that's been expressed looking at the University of North Dakota. In those discussions, it's been very clear that the interest -- if the opportunity is right -- is that of full membership as opposed to football-only affiliation."

So as the discussions continue, UND is collecting the appropriate information.

"We're looking at the travel costs involved, where our alumni bases are -- just as we've done with the Summit (League)," Faison said. "We've looked at operating budgets and what their media situation is like. We're trying to do our homework."

Also, in a case of interesting timing, UND is essentially courting two conferences at the moment. UND will host Summit League officials early next week in regards to that conference potentially adding UND as an all-sports member. The Summit, though, does not sponsor football.

Faison said there is no timeline for any conference decision making. However, Faison said both the Summit and the Big Sky will want some sort of expansion resolution, no matter which teams are involved, in the next couple of weeks.

"There is some urgency whatever new teams would be in the mix," Faison said. "We don't control that (timeline). We'll be reacting."

Some actions, though, may take place at the completion of the Summit meetings.

"Any action will come from the conferences, but we'll be expressing our particular interest after the site visit with the Summit League," Faison said.

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Fullerton had an interesting way of saying the two sides have yet to come together.

"It takes two people to want to get married for a marriage to happen," he said.

The commissioner wouldn't divulge any information regarding expansion as it pertains to the University of South Dakota or Southern Utah -- two programs rumored to be on the Big Sky's radar.

He would say, though, "there were discussions with more than one school."

Fullerton also reiterated what Faison had said about membership: That the Big Sky would ideally expand with all-sports membership as opposed to football-only affiliation.

"Our vision is always full membership," Fullerton said. "That is still the primary discussion. That's our priority first."

Big Sky focuses on FCS future

Fullerton's summary of last week's presidents meeting had two facets: One, the focus was to envision the Big Sky in five years. Two, the league believes that FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) will play a major role in the future of college football.

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"The presidents were able to spend some time together and talk about where they want to be in five years," Fullerton said. "I'd say the presidents were very forward thinking in establishing the Big Sky as we move forward.

"There's the thought that FCS will become more important as we move forward in the NCAA, because finances in all but the very top teams are looking unsustainable at the FBS level with costs inflating so quickly."

Miller is a sports reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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