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Jeff Kolpack, Published June 10 2013

NDSU nears conclusions on key athletic issues

FARGO – North Dakota State is close on three important issues facing the athletic department this month: Finding an 11th football opponent, securing a contract extension for the head men’s basketball coach and generating the funds for the renovation of the Bison Sports Arena.

Finding a replacement for Montana State, which bought out of a September game, has been a chore. Athletic director Gene Taylor said there are still a couple of possible options in the mix.

“At least a couple of schools are still talking to us,” he said.

He would not get any more specific than that, although at least one of the schools already has 11 games scheduled and is looking at playing a 12th – something that is permissible in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision this year because of the way the calendar falls.

Taylor said he had talks with Georgia Southern, but the schools couldn’t find a suitable date. GSU is full during NDSU’s open dates and the Eagles, Taylor said, offered to play on Nov. 30 – which would be the first round of the FCS playoffs.

GSU is ineligible for postseason because it is making a transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

It’s the latest NDSU has ever gone in the Division I era without scheduling an opponent and Taylor said he’ll go as late as he needs to find a team.

“It’s getting uncomfortable, I’ll say that,” he said.

The long-talked about BSA renovation, however, appears to be finding a comfort zone in terms of wrapping up fundraising.

“It’s beginning to look pretty good,” Taylor said. “We’re crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s on that project.”

The $35 million overhaul is entirely externally funded and needs to have all commitments in place before the school can approach the state legislature, which must approve university projects of that size.

Meanwhile, Taylor said he and men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips have come to an agreement on a five-year contract extension. Phillips’ current deal expires at the end of the month and Taylor said all that is left before the deal is complete is to check with attorneys over the language. He said it will include a bump in salary with “standard bonuses” that, in most respects, are similar to head football coach Craig Bohl. Taylor said he expects the agreement to be signed by the end of the month.

“The negotiation side of it is complete,” he said.

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia