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Are Fans Sure They Want the FBS?

Editor’s note: Column writer Joe Kerlin is wrote a three-part series breaking down what it would take for North Dakota State to move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision. The following is the third and final part of the series.

By now, we understand the financial hurdles North Dakota State would have to overcome before receiving an invitation from the Mid-American Conference or Conference USA in the FBS. The bar has been set high, and it isn’t the only element of the transition holding NDSU back.

The Fargodome is a wonderful atmosphere in which fans can root for the Bison and scare the game plans out of opponents. But with 19,000 as the capacity, the Fargodome could experience size issues in a league with stadiums over 100,000.

For the Bison to move to the FBS, the home facility would need to expand. This could lead to a whole array of headaches for the new athletic director and Fargo City Council. Someone as powerful as Andrew Carnegie wouldn’t be able to negotiate a new stadium, but even if someone does, are we still sure NDSU is ready to move up?

It’s always enlightening to hear an outsider’s opinion about a school we cover and discuss endlessly. The honesty and unbiased thoughts and rational behind people’s opinion is what give you a greater sense of who and what you really are. But what people perceive you as and your own vision of yourself can differ.

Five victories over FBS opponents have surly given Bison fans the confidence that NDSU is ready for the next level of football. But what would an informed outsider or an employee from ESPN think?

Surely with all the exposure from ESPN’s “College GameDay,” you would think the Bison have the momentum to carry them into the FBS after having the epicenter of college football in downtown Fargo twice in two years.

“I don’t think that is automatically a good thing,” “GameDay” producer Lee Fitting said in an interview with Bison Illustrated. “How many schools make the jump from FCS to FBS, and (then) you never hear from them again?”

Among the schools Fitting is alluding to is the University of Massachusetts, which has been 2-22 since joining the MAC; Western Kentucky, which took five years to make its first bowl game, and Georgia State, who went winless in its first year playing an FBS schedule last season.

“I think the fans want to pound on their chest and say, ‘We made it to (the) FBS,’” Fitting said. “But when you get up there, nine times out of 10, you turn into the bottom. No one hears from them when they are getting beat 45-0 by Alabama, Tennessee or Auburn.”

The Bison football program is in a golden era that will continue well after the team’s next loss. I believe the jump to FBS would be toxic to the goodwill Bison football has across the nation. Fans need to understand that NDSU doesn’t need to play a Big Ten schedule to prove its program’s dominance. We have a good thing going here in the FCS, so why should we jeopardize the winning culture created to go 7-5 and play in the Bowl?

The 1980s is called the decade of the Bison in Division II football. Championships were won on a regular basis and a handful of players managed to make their way into the NFL. NDSU didn’t make the jump to Division I until 14 years after their last championship in 1990. The program waited until everything was in place structurally before making the leap. It would be a mistake for the program now to suddenly lose its patience and make a transition without the right resources in place.

For now, the FBS can wait.

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