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Kevin Schnepf, Published December 07 2012

Schnepf: Taylor, Bison football program sitting well

Fargo - Gene Taylor normally watches the first half of a North Dakota State football game from his 50-yard-line seat before he moves to the sidelines for the second half.

“People around me know if I leave early, before halftime, it’s not a good thing,” Taylor said.

That’s because the NDSU athletic director tends to get a bit nervous during Bison athletic events. Taylor will be sitting on pins and needles once again today when NDSU hosts Wofford (S.C.) College in a NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal playoff game.

Taylor is hoping to remain in his first-half seat, much like he did last week when the Bison built a 21-7 halftime lead in their playoff win over South Dakota State.

“I was feeling pretty good at that point,” Taylor admitted.

Taylor, in his 11th year at NDSU, has plenty of reasons to feel good these days. His football team keeps hosting playoff games – raking in enough money to not only keep his accountant happy, but to keep the NCAA happy and to keep his coach Craig Bohl content enough to stay in Fargo.

A win today would guarantee the NCAA nearly $1 million. Taking in 80 percent of the playoff gate, the NCAA made more than $900,000 from last year’s three playoff sellouts at the Fargodome.

The NCAA can expect similar payouts from Old Dominion and Montana State, as long as they keep winning. Old Dominion ranks fourth in FCS attendance (20,032), NDSU, fifth, (18,556) and Montana State, eighth (17,800).

“As long as the schools who draw keep hosting games, they will make money,” said Taylor, who has already requested to the NCAA that NDSU (if it beats Wofford) plays next Saturday, not Friday night.

Like last year, NDSU’s mid-term graduation is set for next Friday. Taylor contends parking would be a nightmare if the graduation and a playoff football game were held on the same day.

And it’s no secret outstate fans and tailgaters prefer Saturday games, so much that Taylor is OK with missing out on the prime time, ESPN2 exposure of a Friday night game.

“We feel we’re getting pretty good exposure the way it is,” Taylor said. “We prefer Saturdays.”

Almost as sure as Taylor is of the Bison playing another Saturday game, he’s also fairly confident Bohl will not be leaving for a bigger coaching job – at least for now.

The annual coaching carousel always has Bison fans wondering if Bohl will be wooed to a bigger school. So far, Taylor said he hasn’t received any calls from athletic directors asking permission to talk to Bohl.

And so far, Bohl’s name hasn’t popped in the rumor mill among the openings at Colorado, Tennessee or Wisconsin.

“Is Craig on Wisconsin’s radar? I don’t know. Possibly,” Taylor said. “I do watch the coaching moves very carefully because I know Craig has a ton of respect nationally, from the committees he serves on and the success that he’s had.

“Some schools make me more nervous than others. When Minnesota opened up a couple years ago, I thought, ‘Oh crap.’ And Colorado State, I was really concerned about that last year. And the rumors that Bo Pelini might be leaving Nebraska, that makes me nervous.”

Hard to imagine that Bohl would consider Nebraska, the school that fired him as a defensive coordinator before he came to NDSU in 2003. And it’s hard to imagine that, as quickly as schools fill their openings these days, Bohl would have time or even make time for an interview.

“Craig has been upfront with me that he’s not getting involved with all that as long as we are playing,” Taylor said.

Then again, a $1 million contract would be hard to ignore. Then again, Bohl has said he’s not convinced that it would be worth dealing with the big-school pressures.

He’s got a pretty good gig at NDSU, where he tacked on $40,000 in bonus money to his $200,000 contract during last year’s national championship run.

“I do know he likes it here and he’s not looking,” Taylor said. “He’s not worrying about that next job.”

About the only worrying today will come from Taylor’s 50-yard-line seat.


Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

or kschnepf@forumcomm.com