FARGO — North Dakota State is going outside its box to help grow athletic department revenue in the coming years. The school has signed a letter of agreement with Learfield IMG College to handle the sales end of the athletic department.
The move will add four employees to NDSU although they’ll technically work for Learfield, a national company based in Plano, Texas.
The athletic department currently handles corporate sales in-house that is managed by assistant athletic directors Troy Goergen and Jeremy Jorgenson. Athletic director Matt Larsen said Learfield’s experience, access to national brands and vendors and agreements with national firms made the timing right.
“I think we’ve come to a point where some resources they have at their fingertips … we just don’t have the connections that they do,” Larsen said. “They also have the ability to have dedicated staff members who are selling and managing on a day-to-day basis where we don’t have the luxury to do that.”
Georgen, for instance, also manages NDSU’s marketing and communications.
Leafield manages the athletic departments of at least 135 Division I schools including South Dakota State, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Northern Iowa. It employs more than 2,000 people.
Larsen said the letter of agreement will lead to a longer-term contract. Learfield would like to begin next July 1 but has already started advertising for a general manager.
“They want to start staffing up so they just don’t walk into the door July 1,” Larsen said.
South Dakota State signed a 10-year deal with Learfield in 2011 that guaranteed the Jackrabbits’ athletic department $1.3 million annually. With the contract, Learfield gets all sponsorship revenue and advertising opportunities in radio, athletic website and signage.
SDSU contracts with Midco for its television rights.
It was around then when former NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said he had conversations with Learfield.
“It’s something we’ll continue to look at,” Taylor said in a 2011 Forum story.
A major hitch was NDSU’s agreement with the Fargodome for marketing revenue so any changes that would involve Learfield would have had to go through the Fargo Dome Authority.
That has changed, Larsen said, after the dome dumped Global Spectrum (now Spectra) in 2015 and decided to manage the facility themselves.
“Now we have a separate advertising agreement with the dome and certain things athletics has access to sell,” Larsen said. “From what I understand, everything used to go into this pot no matter what anybody did and each group got a distribution from it. Probably not the best model to maximize revenue. I think our agreement now with the dome is more beneficial to both entities.”
Learfield’s multimedia rights contract with UND involves venue signage, event sponsorships and promotion, corporate hospitality, radio and television, digital engagement and visibility through the UND athletics website, according to the Learfield website.
Larsen said the four Learfield staff members in Fargo will have space at NDSU’s Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
“And we very much envision them being part of the family, part of the group,” Larsen said. “I think to be successful, they need to be seen as part of our department.”