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Jeff Kolpack, Published June 28 2008

D-I reclassification period lacked its typical pitfalls

A check of the calendar reveals the last five years indeed lasted five years. No more, no less.

Perhaps it just seems like a decade ago when athletic director Gene Taylor got in front of a microphone at a packed Alumni Center and announced North Dakota State was moving its athletics program to Division I.

Eighty years of North Central Conference and small college athletics was dumped in a single sentence. What lie ahead appeared even more ominous: a Division I reclassification and independent status.

Gloom and doom?

Hardly.

The highlights were plenty. The men’s basketball win over Wisconsin and the football victory at Minnesota top the list. There’s also the men’s hoops win at Marquette and the first Division I-A football win at Ball State. All good stuff.

“I challenge someone to find somebody who has done it better,” men’s basketball coach Saul Phillips said of the reclassification. “Show me a program that has done it better. Now, some have done it well but the success has been everything we could have hoped for.”

He’s right. The reclassification was supposed to be about failures (see Longwood University, Savannah State and Texas-Pan American). It was supposed to be five years of hardship, administrative headaches, coaching changes and bad recruiting. It took some digging, but in the spirit of how we thought the reclassification was going to go, here is one reporter’s top five moments:

- 1. NDSU at TCU women’s basketball, Feb. 22, 2005. The Bison entered the game in Fort Worth, Texas, 24-0 including a win at the University of Cincinnati. They were also untested with a flabby schedule. This game showed what good Division I basketball is all about: quickness and athleticism. It was 42-17 at halftime and the final: TCU 74, NDSU 43.

- 2. NDSU at California Hayward soccer, Oct. 7, 2004. The Bison lost 2-1 to finish the season 5-11-1. With the exception of the players and coaches, nobody around here is sure what kind of team the Bison had that season– they played every game on the road. NDSU traveled more than 10,000 miles with most of those on a bus.

- 3. Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne at NDSU volleyball, Oct. 7, 2005. The significance of this match was not the outcome – Fort Wayne won 3-0. But it was the Bison’s first home match of the season after opening the season with the first 21 on the road. It was a Division I transition scheduling nightmare at its worst.

- 4. New Jersey Tech at NDSU men’s basketball, Feb, 10, 2007. Not all moments of ineptitude involve a Bison loss – NDSU won 80-57. This one showcased the ills of independent basketball. The WDAY television highlights from New Jersey Institute of Technology showed a small arena with seating on one side of the court and a wall directly behind the team benches on the other side.

- 5. South Dakota State at NDSU women’s basketball, Feb. 3, 2007. There were a few blowouts at the hands of the Jacks to choose from, but this one at home was over before it started. Final was 86-45 before 2,710 fans at the BSA.

Readers can reach Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546 or jkolpack@forumcomm.com.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com