New era begins todayGRAND FORKS — When employees of the UND athletic department get to work today, the school will be an official member of the Big Sky Conference. But it’s still going to be business as usual in and around Hyslop Sports Center, the home of the university’s athletic department.
By: Tom Miller, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
GRAND FORKS — When employees of the UND athletic department get to work today, the school will be an official member of the Big Sky Conference.
But it’s still going to be business as usual in and around Hyslop Sports Center, the home of the university’s athletic department.
That’s thanks to Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton and the access he’s granted UND over the course of the past year to get up to speed with the operations of the league.
“We’ve had opportunities to be involved in learning about the business structure, policies and procedures,” UND athletic director Brian Faison said. “That’s a big help. It really expedites things from an administrative standpoint.”
Those policies and procedures can range from the playoff structure of each sport to caps on player travel numbers for different teams — then incorporating those nuances into the budget process.
Administratively, Faison and UND senior associate athletic director Daniella Irle joined Big Sky conference calls, while each UND head coach has spent the past year joining conference calls from their respective sports. Some of those conference calls were twice per year, while others were once a month.
Faison said he’s working with Fullerton to line up the commissioner’s visit to campus in the fall. The two plan to get together during the football media days later this month in Park City, Utah. At those meetings, the Big Sky is expected to announce its rebranding process and unveil a new logo.
One of the Big Sky’s perks is the league’s exposure. In April, Root Sports announced its 12-game television schedule for the league’s football programs. The games will be televised in high definition on the Root Sports regional networks, which reach 8.7 million viewers across 18 states.
UND will play on Root Sports on Oct. 20 when it hosts Montana at the Alerus Center.
Partly due to that television deal, the league doles out revenue sharing with its members.
“It’s one of the few conferences that has revenue sharing because of its business plan,” Faison said. “It’s a unique situation that has developed over the years because of the long, hard work put in by the conference and the commissioner.”
The revenue sharing is not equal and is based on a program’s level of exposure. Faison said UND hasn’t budgeted for that money and will have a better handle on revenue sharing after the first season in the league.
Today’s official inclusion into the Big Sky might not mean a lot of changes for the athletic department’s operations, but Faison said the day will be significant.
“It’s certainly historic,” he said.
Miller is a sports writer at the Grand Forks Herald