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Kolpack: Don't be thinking about hotel reservations in Minneapolis anytime soon

NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen carries against Minnesota in this 2011 game at TCF Bank Stadium. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO—The large headline on The Forum's sports page on Thursday, July 20, was all fine and dandy. The Big Ten Conference is back on the FCS scheduling table, it read in so many words.

It hasn't been made official by the league but word is out Big Ten schools will be allowed to schedule FCS programs on the years when they have four home games in a nine-game league schedule. In other words, every Big Ten school in every other year will have room for an FCS game, if it so chooses.

But before you start thinking about hotel reservations in downtown Minneapolis, the age-old problem for North Dakota State is still on the table: Who in the name of Bronko Nagurski is going to play the Bison?

P.J. Fleck was in Champaign, Ill., last Sept. 17, leading his Western Michigan team to a resounding 34-10 win over the University of Illinois. So he wasn't that far away from where the Bison defeated the University of Iowa on the same day.

Now that he's the new Gophers coach, his memory isn't that short. It was the second road win over a Big Ten team in three weeks for Western and the point is this: Fleck obviously knows what kind of team it takes to beat a Big Ten program.

Whether he believes NDSU is that kind of team is another matter. I guess we'll know if he puts the Bison on the schedule in the mid-2020s but for now his scheduling philosophy doesn't appear to be common knowledge.

"He hasn't been here long enough," said Chip Scoggins, the columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I don't know what his idea of a schedule is yet. Maybe it will take a couple of years because with those schedules they're done so far out in advance."

Remember in the movie "Dumb and Dumber" when Jim Carrey asks Lauren Holly about his chances of being with her and she replies one in a million? And he says at least there's a chance?

That's how I feel about the odds of this game happening.

Scoggins is on the same wavelength.

"That's a game you have to pay North Dakota State significant money to come and play and the track record shows North Dakota State wins those games a lot," he said. "And so then it's a double-whammy for the Big Ten schools to pay guarantee money and lose the game. It's not what they're looking for."

The track record is NDSU 9, FBS schools 3 and you could argue it could be 11-1 losing winnable games at Minnesota in 2006 (10-9) and Wyoming in 2009 (16-13). The record includes six straight wins with four of those against Power Five schools starting with Kansas in 2010, Minnesota in 2011, Kansas State in 2013, Iowa State in 2014 and Iowa last season.

The NDSU-Minnesota discussions ended when Jerry Kill was hired in 2011 and if NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen can resume talks, then the U.S. government needs to send him to the Middle East to negotiate peace.

"I see both sides," Scoggins said. "There is this thing where fans like those games because it's a regional opponent and you have a full stadium when they play. But I also think there's that unspoken fear that there's a good chance you can lose that game. When you're already facing a Big Ten season that is tough, you're trying to stack up as many wins as you can in nonconference."

The Big Ten has its pre-season media event next Monday and Tuesday so perhaps more will be known officially about the policy. Just to hear commissioner Jim Delany say the letters "F-C-S" would be worth the price of admission.

But that most likely won't mean Big Ten schools will be answering the phone with a 701 area code on it. These are not the days of Bronko Nagurski, the famed Gophers player from the late 1920s.

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.
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