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Jeff Kolpack, Published March 27 2013

Bison football team may have to settle for road game to fill out 11 games

FARGO – It didn’t take long before the college football vultures began circling over the North Dakota State football program. When Montana State exercised a buyout last month for next September’s game at the Fargodome, Bison athletic director Gene Taylor said a few schools tried to take advantage.

They said they would take the Bobcats’ place – for a hefty price. A few said they would play in Fargo for a $300,000 guarantee, or more.

“Did they hold us over the edge? Oh yeah, absolutely,” Taylor said. “We just said, ‘No, we’re not interested.’ ”

The result will most likely send the Bison on the road for an 11th game next fall and leave the school with just five home games for the first time since 2009. There are few Division I Football Championship Subdivision options remaining for either of NDSU’s open dates on either Sept. 7 or Sept. 14.

NDSU will not play a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent since it already is opening at Kansas State on Aug. 30.

Taylor said if NDSU does go on the road for one of those dates, that the hope is to make it part of a home-and-home contract, with the return date in either 2015 or 2016. Perhaps another option, he said, is for a school that has 11 games scheduled to add NDSU as a 12th game.

Teams are allowed to play 12 regular-season games next season because of the way the calendar falls.

There are enough dates between the opening weekend of the season and the start of the FCS playoffs to allow for it.

NDSU normally pays a guarantee of around $200,000, which usually consists of a charter plane flight and hotel rooms. Some schools opt for a combination of one of those and cash.

Either way, Taylor said paying a school in the ballpark of $250,000 or more is not a viable option for two reasons: It threatens the break-even point of a home game, and it could set a future precedent that would not be advantageous to NDSU.

“You start trying to schedule a game in ’16 and if you paid so-and-so ‘X’ number of dollars, then they’ll say, ‘Why don’t you pay us “X” number of dollars?’ ” he said. “So right now, we look at the number we’re paying currently – which is a lot and more than a lot of places – and as long as we’re filling the stadium, it works for us.”

Having just five regular-season games in the Fargodome is not uncommon in Craig Bohl’s 10 years at NDSU, although most were the result of the Division I reclassification scheduling headaches.

The Bison had only Wagner College (N.Y.) as a non-conference home opponent in 2009. NDSU opened that season at Iowa State and Sam Houston State (Texas). There were also just five games in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

“We’re not getting any calls back,” Taylor said. “There are still a couple of schools we have presented things to as a home game, but I think we have to start pursuing that 11th game potentially with a travel opponent.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia